July 31, 2006

1 Ch 26-29 / Falling behind / Folo / Sermon Sunday / Tidbits

(Don’t forget to finish July with the re-reading of its seasonal canticle, Deuteronomy 32:1-4. You can find my comments on it here.)

Today by reading 1 Chronicles 26-29 we not only finish the major section dealing with the reign of David but we also finish the first “half” of this book. First we complete the subsection dealing with the organization of the temple service (chapter 26), and then we read all of the kingdom’s administrative structures (chapter 27), of David’s final preparations for succession and the temple (28:1-29:20), and of Solomon’s succession and David’s death (29:21-30). Chapter 26 sure gives us an appreciation for the scale of the Temple’s operation. Chapter 27 helps us picture more of the military structure that has been suggested by previous lists of the “thirty”, not to mention the “overseers” of the kings wealth and, if I’m not mistaken, his forced labor. Where I had previously noted the absence of the tribes of Zebulun and Dan, in 27:16-22 Gad and Asher are missing, but the total of twelve remains, as Levi is counted as a tribe when often it is not, and, as often is the case, Ephraim and Manasseh replace Joseph, but Manasseh’s two halves are each counted as one. (The “heads” of each tribe were regarded as “tribal princes”.) The transition from David to Solomon and the passing along the plans for the temple in chapters 28 and 29 are, in comparison to 1 Kings 1-2, “idealized” by the chronicler, as one commentator puts it. The “idealization” does not deny inspiration or the accompanying truth, but recognizes that there’s more to the story than the chronicler is presenting at this point. Note also that David is cast in some ways parallel to Moses, who received plans for the tabernacle from God. And, the gifts of the people, described in chapter 29, for the temple construction are similar to the gifts of the people, described in such places as Exodus 35:20-29, for the tabernacle construction. David’s prayer gives what might be called a great theology of stewardship. (These verses made me think of TLH #441, but that hymn supposedly has a different verse as its primary basis.)

I don’t remember exactly how it came up, but a brother pastor and I were talking recently about pastors being heckled by people in the congregation and maybe needing bouncers, and I mentioned that I had just read about the Old Testament temple gatekeepers (NIV, NASB; “porters” KJV, ASV), who maybe could make a comeback. They were mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:17-29 and 16:37-38, and they come up again today. Especially with the tent-like tabernacle we can imagine security was needed, although apparently even with the solid walls around the temple gatekeepers still had a function (see the details in 9:23-28). Remember how even in Jesus’ day different people were allowed into different parts of the temple complex, that is, Gentiles could only go so far, women into one place, etc. You might be interested to know that at one time “doorkeeper” was the lowest order of clergy in the Western Church, with their ancient function being that of excluding unauthorized persons from the sanctuary for the celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar. The liturgy even had a call, “The doors, the doors”, which was the direction for the doorkeepers to see to their task. After those that needed to be excluded were excluded, the doors were closed if not locked (reflecting, to some extent, Matthew 25:10)—communion was “closed” (with a “d”). On a related note, one time as Pastor Sullivan and I were coming through the breezeway on our way to the Narthex I opened the door for someone who commented that I didn’t need to do that. I replied with Psalm 84:10, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (NIV). That “doorkeeper” is a different Hebrew word than what we have as “gatekeeper”, but the idea may be somewhat the same. Or, the idea in the psalm may be intended to contrast just standing on the threshold of the Lord’s House for a day being better than going all the way into the tent of a wicked person for a thousand days. (For more on Psalm 84, see here.)

Are you falling behind in your daily reading? If so, be sure to feel enough guilt to try to get caught up (*smile*) but not so much guilt that you come to dread the reading. Depending on how far behind you are, you might try to set aside some extra time to catch up, or you might resolve to read one or two extra chapters every day until you are caught up. Another option would be to read through the end of 2 Kings and then skip ahead to where we are at that time (or the beginning of Ezra, whichever comes first), especially as much of what is in 1 and 2 Chronicles recaps the history of Samuel and Kings. (Remember that the Daily Lectionary Biblical Index can help you easily find Biblog posts and Q&A pertaining to whatever reading you are on.) Regardless of how far behind you are or how long it takes you to catch up, do not stop reading! The important thing is not for you to stick legalistically to a regimented program but for you to be in the Word so the Holy Spirit can work through it. I welcome your questions on whatever you are reading, as I am sure the other readers will too, since so often many people have the same questions but not everyone is willing to ask (even in this non-threatening format where the questions are completely anonymous). God bless you as you abide in His Word, wherever in that Word you might be abiding!

The Biblog folo today comes after I linked in yesterday’s post to this Memorial Moment, which, given our reading of 1 Chronicles 21:15, I thought had a timely discussion of God’s “repenting”. I had recalled from when that particular Memorial Moment was first sent that it was fairly straightforward, but a reader’s request for clarification on the following paragraph quoted from St. Augustine made me take a closer look at it and realize it wasn’t as straightforward as I had recalled.

Therefore that which begins to be spoken of God in time, and which was not spoken of Him before, is manifestly spoken of Him relatively; yet not according to any accident in God, so that anything should have happened to Him, but clearly according to some accident of that, in respect to which God begins to be called something relatively.

The Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray had two days earlier sent this epistle that explains a little more about accidents (I’m sorry I didn’t mention it yesterday), and it also helps to know that "relation" can be one of the so-called “accidents”. If I understand Dr. Murray and St. Augustine correctly, St. Augustine is trying to explain that what might otherwise be taken from Holy Scripture as a change in God is in fact a change in us, as far as our relationship with God is an “accident” of who we are. If I am not mistaken, “that which begins to be spoken of God in time, and which was not spoken of Him before” refers to one's relationship with Him, such as “being Bob’s Savior”, and “that, in respect to which God begins to be called something relatively” is Bob. As Dr. Murray points out, Augustine’s explanation is not entirely satisfactory, as it seems to credit us for our positive relationship with God, against the whole of Holy Scripture. Although I think I could explain philosophically why the credit would not have to be ours (such as by making God and His predestined relationship with us the cause of at least the positive changes in our relationship with him [He can't be of the negative aspects, otherwise we would have the error of double predestination]), the easier way out is to remember that God does not always fit neatly into our philosophical system. As Shakespeare had Hamlet say to Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth … Than are dreamt of in our philosophy.” (The more I think about that, the more I think that might be a good epigram for my dissertation.)

Pastor Sullivan had a good sermon Sunday with the title “Only a Christian is free”, and he reminded me of the first two lines of this song by the ostensibly Christian rock group Creed. I think we do not hear enough about how for us as Christians slavery to sin is exchanged for slavery to righteousness. We may be “free” to do things, but as righteous people we do not. In 1 Corinthians St. Paul says more than once, “‘Everything is permissible for me,’ but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23). The first part of that statement is thought to have been what the people in Corinth were saying and the second part St. Paul’s addition to get them to realize that Christians were not “free”, as they apparently thought, to live however they wanted.

You may find the tidbits today a little more disturbing than usual. A Florida abortion business allegedly botched an abortion and then killed the baby when it was born alive. ... Protesters in Waco wage another battle in their fight against Planned Parenthood there. ... Los Angeles officials are now investigating whether preferential treatment was given to “Passion of the Christ” director Mel Gibson who has already apologized for what have been called anti-Semitic remarks he made when arrested early Friday morning for DUI. ... A New York university professor apparently was denied a promotion because he was too critical of his university, including its lack of conservative professors. ... A study suggests that, despite all the court-battle hoopla, homosexuals really don’t want to be married. ... Reports of an end to the lawsuit against the LCMS may have been greatly exaggerated. (Thanks to the reader who sent in this link to the latest legal documents and this one to a popular discussion group’s thread about it.) ... Here’s a piece that really doesn’t live up to its headline. What we need is some honest writing about why some so-called Christians are such ardent supporters of Israel and why others are not. ... A major Southern Baptist congregation in Oklahoma has voted whether to make immersion baptism optional. ... A low-budget, Baptist-church made football movie that sparked controversy when given a PG rating for its “proselytizing” now has a bigger distribution deal. ... And, I’ve heard of radio stations changing their format, but nothing like this.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 30, 2006

1 Ch 21-25 / Synod news / Early rationalism / Folo / Tidbits

(You can find comments on Psalm 56, which is appointed today, here.)

We continue the section on David’s reign as we read 1 Chronicles 21-25 today. Chapter 21 tells us of the census, chapter 22 of the preparations for the temple, and chapter 23-24 begin the subsection on the organization of the temple service. At first we might wonder why the Divinely-inspired chronicler, who omitted the account of David’s sin with Bathsheba, would include chapter 21 and its account of the sinful census. When, however, we recall that the census led to the acquisition of the site for the temple, then the account’s inclusion seems to make much more sense, especially given the chronicler’s emphasis on worship matters. (The narrative of the census seems to serve a different purpose in the book of Samuel’s arrangement.) On Satan’s role of instigating the census, see this previously posted Q&A, to which answer I might now add that Professor Marquart in his Austin class a week ago said pastors should do an exorcism even though it isn’t in any of the Synod’s formal baptismal rites. People sometimes ask about the Lord’s “repenting”, as in 21:15 KJV; in one of his Memorial Moments, the Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray recently reflected on that question and on Augstine’s answer. Verse 17 reminded me of shepherd’s responsibility for their sheep, and I also reflected on this second Passover of a sort where death was also halted by the shedding of blood, pointing, like its predecessor, to the sacrifice of all sacrifices that halts our death. Chapter 22 tells us much more about David’s involvement in the planning of and provision for the construction of the temple than we heard from Samuel or Kings. Similarly, chapter 23 tells us much more than we’ve heard about David’s plans for the administration of the temple and its worship. Clearly corporate worship mattered in Biblical times and matters today! In the Divine Service we receive through Word and Sacrament the very forgiveness of sins that saves us and gives us eternal life with the Lord.

Two recent Synod news releases are worthy of a little reflection. First, there’s this one about the Black Ministry Family Convocation. Having just read a good bit about David’s arrangements for right worship, words like “performance” and “showcase” in the discussion of God’s service to us should jump out at you as wrong. (That’s not even to mention such things as the embracing of Ablaze!, raising money for programs that contribute to the fragmenting of the Church, and bypassing the seminaries as institutions for training pastors.) Second, there’s this one about the emphasis on outreach at the LLL International Convention. Don’t get me wrong: I think God has surely worked through Lutheran Layman’s League and Lutheran Hour Ministries in the past, but there are some problems here. The strategic outreach plan is too concerned with “reporting progress” (as in increasing the count on the Ablaze! website, as evident in President Kieschnick own comments) and “measurable effectiveness”. The speaker’s address, at least as quoted by the news release, seemed to lack an awareness that God’s heart should be at the center of the radio broadcasts. Overall, the Synod continues down a path that lacks confidence in God’s ability and will to do as He has promised: create faith when and where He pleases in those who hear the Gospel.

People often think that the sort of mindset that dismisses miracles as supernatural and rejects anything that seems unreasonable came about as part of the so-called age of reason in the 17th Century and the enlightenment of the 18th century. As I continue to work on my dissertation, I was struck by the following indication of early rationalism from the Apology (or "Defense") of the Augsburg Confession, written by Philip Melanchthon in 1531 and a major part of our Lutheran Confessions.

For how many does one find, or better how many are found up to now among bishops, popes, etc., who for themselves accept the Gospel with earnestness and sincerity or that have regarded one little page or one letter therein as worthy to be read? One unfortunately no doubt knows many examples, that there are many in Italy and elsewhere, who mock the whole religion, Christ, and the Gospel and hold them for a public laughing stock. And, if it pleases them to accept some, so they accept what they please, those that human reason accepts, and they regard all the others as the fables. (Apology of the Augsburg Confession VII/VIII:27, my translation from the German.)

Already then and even more so today people think they can pick and choose what they will believe of the Holy Scriptures. The Lutheran Confessions have quite a different approach; you can read more about them here, of which the Rule and Norm sections of the Formula of Concord might be helpful to continue this theme (follow the links to the on-line full text versions of the various writings).

The Biblog folo today comes in response to my mentioning in Saturday’s post that, after reading of the harm done to horses, I couldn’t help but think of the movie and TV show disclaimer that animals were not harmed, not suggesting that I didn’t think horses were harmed in the biblical account but just remarking on how producers are compelled to make such a disclaimer. A reader emailed pointing out that the animals of Chronicles were harmed, unless one takes a liberal or not literal attitude toward Scripture, which, of course, we are not taking here. The reader indicated thinking about the brutality to the horses but also remembered there was brutality to people, and, I might add, other animals. (PETA and SPCA would have had a field day.) The reader also wondered why the animals were not killed outright, and I wonder if making it so they couldn’t walk did effectively kill them. The KJV’s “hough” (where the ASV has “hocked” and the NIV and NASB have “hamstrung”) led the reader to a Mark Twain passage, apparently about bull fighting, in which reference is made to hamstringing the bull but then killing him when the bull can no longer provide any sport. In Genesis 49:6, hamstringing oxen is used to indicate the seemingly senseless violence of Simeon and Levi. Yet, God commanded Joshua (Joshua 11:6) to hamstring the horses of the northern kings, and he did (11:9). To some extent, David may be said to be following that command (see 1 Chronicles 18:4’s “parallel” account, 2 Samuel 8:4), although one commentator says, “David may not have understood the value of the chariot as a military weapon.” Chariots were not really used by Israel until Solomon, and I think it possible that David was following the Lord’s command and that perhaps Solomon was not. The chariots may have tempted the Israelites to rely on themselves more than on God. (If you’ve been wondering, as I have, how this year’s Kentucky Derby champ Barbaro is doing with his injuries, here’s the latest.) [After I had drafted the preceding folo, the same reader emailed this link, which has some worthwhile insights.]

Tidbits today begin with a new report that says the most-common abortion procedure increases risk of premature births (see here and here). ... Malaysian Muslims now have a botox ban. ... Religious leaders are concerned about changes in the laws in India that might limit the ability of people there to convert to other faiths. ... Seattle officials have stepped up security after what they are now calling a hate crime Friday possibly related to the Middle-East conflict. ... One of the Left Behind authors attempts to explain that conflict in light of Biblical prophecy or just sell more books. ... Mel Gibson has apologized after his drunk driving arrest. ... And, here’s yesterday’s great Memorial Moment about God’s answer for those who question suffering.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make it holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 29, 2006

1 Ch 16-20 / Biblog Folo / Tidbits

(Psalm 55 is appointed to read today, and my previous post has some devotional thoughts on it.)

1 Chronicles 16-20 continues the account of David’s reign. First it finishes the narration of the ark coming to Jerusalem and David’s kingdom being established (chapter 16), then it tells of God’s promise to David of a dynasty (chapter 17), and finally it tells of David’s conquests (chapter 18-20). In chapter 16, we do well to notice how important worship is to David and the faithful people, with all the appointments for the ministry and music. The psalm preserved by the chronicler finds parallels in such Psalms as 105, 96, and 106. Note in 16:36 the role of the people. Chapter 17 tells of the same events as 2 Samuel 7, but we are well-reminded both of God’s grace and mercy to all of us who do not deserve such grace and mercy and of God’s provisions of shepherds for His people. As we read chapter 18-20, we see vivid examples of how God followed through on His promises to David, giving him military and political successes. We, of course, do not look for such an earthly kingdom here and now but know that we will reign with Christ over the new heavens and new earth. (After reading 18:4, I couldn’t help but think of the little disclaimer one sees sometime on movies or TV shows: “No animals were harmed …”)

My dissertation work led to the following Biblog folos to a previous Biblog folo. You may recall the June 13th discussion of Leviticus 19:26-28 and Acts 15 and whether we should or should not eat food with blood (such as blood sausage or rare steaks).

The apostles commanded that one should abstain from blood, etc. Who observes this prohibition now? Those who do not observe it commit no sin, for the apostles did not wish to burden consciences with such bondage but forbade such eating for a time to avoid offense. In connection with the decree one must consider what the perpetual aim of the Gospel is. (AC XXVIII:65-66, translation from the Latin, Tappert, 92.)

We should remember, also, however, that those who do observe the prohibition against food with blood also do not sin, and we may voluntarily abstain from time to time ourselves to honor and respect their position. Should someone tell us we must abstain from bloody food, however, we would be compelled by Christian liberty to eat it! The perpetual aim of the Gospel (its chief doctrine), of course, is the salvation of sinners by grace through faith in the merits of Christ. In receiving the forgiveness of sins that effects that salvation we consume Christ’s blood in the Sacrament of the Altar—a real drink that is all the more scandalous because of the Old Testament command against drinking blood because life was in it. In the case of the true blood of our Lord and Savior, that’s the very reason to drink it!

Tidbits today are a bit of a police blotter, sorry. Nebraska’s Supreme Court let the electric chair remain the state’s only form of execution. ... A Muslim suspect is in custody in connection with a shooting at a Seattle Jewish center, and police are investigating possible links to the Middle East violence. ... As his latest controversial movie makes its way through post-production, director Mel Gibson is arrested for DUI. ... Just in time for this year’s event, a federal judge says a street preacher was improperly arrested last year at a gay pride festival. ... And, this story gives all Christian clergy a bad name. But, we are all sinners in need of forgiveness, and even St. Paul called himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 28, 2006

1 Ch 11-15 / Vocations / Folos / Tidbits

(Psalm 54 is appointed to read again today; you can find the previous post on it here.)

Reading 1 Chronicles 11-15 today we continue the major section on David’s reign, hearing of the capture of Jerusalem and David’s military forces (chapters 11-12) and of the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem (chapters 13-16, although today we only read through chapter 15). In chapter 11, some of the narrative may be familiar to you from our reading of 2 Samuel, although you may note that the chronicler, at least here, seems to presume familiarity with other accounts and so glosses over some details. Notice also how again the chronicler emphasizes “all Israel”. For some discussion of the “Three” and the “Thirty”, see here. Chapter 12’s details and narrative seem to be placed according to the theme of David’s military forces and not on chronological order (for example, the events of David at Ziklag referenced in 12:1 happened before David took Jerusalem as narrated in 11:4-9, at least according to the sequence of 1 Samuel 27 and 2 Samuel 5:1-3, respectively). The long list of fighters from all over helps the chronicler’s purpose of emphasizing “all Israel” that supported not only David but also the Lord’s purposes for His people. The account in 12:38-40 of David feasting with his men is said to line up with the type of the Messianic feast, of which we have a foretaste in the Sacrament of the Altar. In chapters 13-14 the order is also different from the account in Samuel, as the chronicler emphasizes David’s concern for the ark and the worship of the Lord, also evident by the extended treatment in this subsection. (You might note how the birth of Solomon is mentioned in 14:4 without any elaborating detail.) In chapter 15 the emphasis on “all Israel” is immediately clear in verse 3. In 15:27 we read of David wearing priestly garments, and we are reminded that he is a type of Jesus, Who is priest, king, and prophet.

Recently someone suggested that we do not talk enough about people living Christian lives in their vocations. I agree, especially as we are surrounded by so-called Christians who wrongly try to convince people that one has to be actively engaged in church work to really be a Christian. As I was working on my doctoral dissertation Thursday, I reflected on the following quotation from the Apology (“Defense”) of the Augsburg Confession, where the Reformers argue against their Roman Catholic opponents who wrongly said that monks and nuns pleased God with their lives, especially their poverty. The passage at issue is Matthew 19:21, where Jesus says to the rich young man, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me” (NIV). (The Reformers’ opponents apparently only quoted the part about selling one’s possessions.)

… they do violence to the text when they quote it in a mutilated form. Perfection consists in that which Christ adds, “Follow me.” This sets forth the example of obedience in a calling. Since callings vary [one is called to rulership, a second to be father of a family, a third to be a preacher], this calling is not for everyone, but only for the person with whom Christ is talking here. Thus, the call of David to rule, or of Abraham to sacrifice his son, are not for us to imitate. Callings are personal, just as matters of business themselves vary with times and persons; but the example of obedience is universal. It would have been perfection for this young man to believe and obeyed this calling. So it is perfection for each of us with true faith to obey his own calling. [Not that I should undertake a strange calling for which I have not the commission or command of God.] (Apology XXVII:48-50, translation of the Latin from Tappert, 277, with the German additions from Triglotta, 437, in square brackets.)

We should all obey God in our respective callings, but we are not all called to follow God the way the apostles were (otherwise we would all have to sell all that we have!). In short, what pleases God is faith in Him for the forgiveness of sins on account of the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord—which faith we can have no matter our individual callings. (For more on our Lutheran Confessions see here.)

I have three Biblog folos today. First, in regards to my criticism in yesterday’s post of the news media calling those fighting for Hezbollah “guerillas”, a reader commented about being reminded of Republicans who “sound like they’ve watched too much ‘evangelical’ TV, or swallowed campaign literature wholesale.” The so-called “evangelical” community is certainly rabidly pro-Israel, driven by its errors regarding the end times. I usually think back to my eye-opening class as an undergraduate on the politics of the Middle East and wonder if I would have ever gotten the perspective I have without that class and its Palestinian professor. He was forced from his home at gunpoint by Israeli soldiers, but despite his personal bias, he had us in the course read both sides of the issue. (I see he’s now chair of what used to be the Political Science department and, if this page is any indication, hasn’t taught that class since 1996.)

The second Biblog folo has to do with the tidbit I posted yesterday about Andrea Yates’ acquittal. The reader who emailed highlighted the husband’s responsibility (or lack thereof) for the children born after the doctor told them not to have more children and for essentially ignoring the obvious and repeated warning signs that something was wrong. In some of the TV discussion of the case I saw on Thursday, one commentator essentially called the husband a “fool” (only the commentator used a vulgar Yiddish word).

Today’s third and final Biblog folo is also in response to a tidbit posted yesterday, specifically, the one about the University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who accuses the U.S. government of destroying the World Trade Center. A reader’s email seemed to suggest the World Trade Center collapse could have been a way for the current President Bush to finish the war his father started when he was president, likening it to those who thought President Franklin Delano Roosevelt “engineered Pearl Harbor to get us into WWII.” The reader also recalled questions about the towers’ safety before they were built and just a few years before they came down. I’ll admit the day of the collapse I marveled at how “easily” they seemed to come down, but, even as cynical as I am, I find the conspiracy suggested by the UW-M professor incredible (as in “impossible to believe”).

Tidbits today begin with a Mennonite doctor in Pennsylvania, who is getting national attention after refusing to perscribe a rape victim the so-called “morning after pill”. ... A federal judge says it’s okay for a New Jersey high school football coach to pray “passively” with his team. ... Democrats apparently are no longer content to leave marriage matters to the states. ... A group of conservative Anglicans in Britain want the denomination to break ties with U.S. Episcopalians. ... Apparently not content with God working through His Word and Sacraments, some are attaching special significance to the discovery of an ancient copy of the Psalms in an Irish bog. ... I heard this interesting story on the radio about some even-older Greek writings underneath an ancient copy of the Psalms. ... And, I guess it wasn’t the Force but the Lord Who was "with" this “Star Wars” actor.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 27, 2006

1 Ch 6-10 / Folo / Guerillas / Tidbits

(There are a few helpful comments on Psalm 53 here.)

1 Chronicles 6-10 concludes the section dealing with the genealogies from creation to restoration (chapters 6-9) and begins the major section on David’s reign with a subsection on Saul’s death (chapter 10). The lengthy chapter 6 detailing Levi’s descendants—priests, musicians, and those with other responsibilities—gives evidence of the importance of Temple worship and the services there. Not all of Levi’s descendants are included, which in this case could be the result of an editorial device called “telescoping”, and relational terms such as “father” and “son” are not always used as strictly as we might use them today. Chapters 7 and 8 continue to give the descendants of Israel’s sons, with an admitted emphasis on Saul’s tribe of Benjamin. The genealogies are not completely complete, as you might have noticed that Zebulun’s and Dan’s tribes are absent, as is the other half of Manasseh’s tribe. Even in the case of the other tribes only prominent families are mentioned, and of some of those the genealogies do not really go all the way to the exile, although the fragmentary nature of some lines is more understandable when we see in the next chapter who returned to Judah and therefore were the target of the chronicler’s attempts to show continuity with the past. Chapter 9 begins with less of a continuation of the preceding genealogies and more of a record of those who returned to Judah, and the chronicler more or less lists them according to their religious office: laity, priests, Levites, and temple servants. The reference to “All Israel” in 9:1 is in 9:3 somewhat reduced to Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. At the end of chapter 9 (apparently in case you missed it earlier in 8:29-38?) the genealogy of Saul is repeated, somewhat serving as a transition to the details of his death in chapter 10. If you’ve read the account of Saul in 1 Samuel, then you will see how the chronicler presumes his hearers know some of the details and is barely telling enough of the story to make his point (as in 10:13-14).

I have one quick Biblog folo today. Regarding news linked in Wednesday's post of a copy of the Psalms found in an Irish bog, a reader commented “One way or another the Word gets around! Praise God!” Amen!

In all the news coverage of the Lebanon-Israel war, have you seen any pictures of the guerillas? I keep expecting to see escapees from a zoo exhibit galloping down the streets of Beirut! (That monkey kind of "gorilla" sounds the same as the small-band-of-soldiers kind of "guerilla", and in radio and TV news you can't hear the difference.) You may know I am not one to say the news media are biased, but referring to “Hezbollah guerillas” and “Israeli soldiers” shows a bias in favor of Israel. Speaking that way illegitimatizes the forces in Lebanon while legitimatizing the forces in Israel. Sadly, such biased terminology is not anything new; the news media used it years ago, if memory serves, referring to “freedom fighters” warring against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, but calling the anti-government forces in Colombia “rebels”. (I guess some have forgotten our independent country came about from rebel action.)

I have a complete number of tidbits for you today. Andrea Yates Wednesday was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the case of the deaths of her five children five years ago. ... The State of Washington’s Supreme Court Wednesday upheld a gay marriage ban, but several justices invited the state legislature to change its mind. ... Gay activists are making it known they are in the battle for the long haul. ... A Canadian university professor was fined for calling homosexuality “unnatural”. (In this country. meanwhile, a professor can say the government was behind the destruction of the World Trade Center and nothing happens, although people are still trying, according to this “fair and balanced” report.) ... The Internal Revenue Service is reportedly threatening churches again; that we know to obey God rather than the government when its commands conflict with His is a good thing. (Thanks to the person who sent this link.) ... That so-called political activism by religious groups apparently hasn’t convinced a majority of people that destroying life in stem-cell research is immoral. ... The European Union is going to continue funding stem-cell research but not as much as some would like. ... A Roman Catholic AIDS patient has talked about one time being told she couldn’t commune. (Maybe their liturgy doesn’t call it a salutary—“healthy”—gift.) ... A leading biologist plugging his new book calls scientists to investigate God but says opposition to evolution undermined faith. ... And, there’s a new theory about evolution, but like all the others it’s woefully short on evidence and even goes against some studies. (Thanks to the reader who sent in this link. The reader commented on the irony evolution would be driven by fear of snakes; I wonder if the scientist knew anything about Genesis 3:15.)

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 26, 2006

Ps 52/ 1 Ch 1-5 / Biblog Folo / Tidbits

As I re-read Psalm 52 and my previous comments, I thought it would be worth pointing out the contrast between verse 5, where the enemy is uprooted, and verse 8, where the psalmist is firmly planted. The enemy is uprooted from his own dwelling, and the righteous is planted in sacred and otherwise inaccessible ground (not that olive trees were actually planted in the temple complex). The idea of being uprooted is used moderately in the Old Testament, and its opposite, as in this verse, is to flourish. A person who trusts in God instead of other people is a tree that will flourish. The flourishing tree is made “green” by a rich supply of water, and we might think of the water of life in Holy Baptism that makes us alive and to which we return in daily repentance.

With 1 Chronicles 1-5 appointed to be read today, we begin a new book. You can find some introductory comments on the book in the background for this month’s reading (online here or downloadable here). Although the author or “chronicler” is anonymous, Jewish tradition holds that Ezra authored the book, and we might agree and date the book about 430 BC. Whoever God inspired to record it drew on a variety of sources, no doubt including other surviving canonical books such as Genesis and Kings, to compose what is regarded as a “sermon” of sorts about the past for the people who had returned from exile. (Remember that Samuel and Kings were likely written for the people in exile.) Chronicles is grouped among the Old Testament books known as “the writings”, and in the original Old Testament order came at the end of the canon, following Ezra and Nehemiah instead of preceding them as its narrative does. (In view of 2 Chronicles 24:20 and verses following, Jesus’ statement in Matthew 23:35 and Luke 11:51 thus can be understood to mean “Genesis to Chronicles” or all of Scripture at that point.) The chronicler emphasizes connections to the past despite the fact that life after the exile is different in a variety of ways from life before the exile. Like Samuel and Kings, Chronicles was originally one book later split into two by those who translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, who also titled the books “the things omitted”, regarding them as supplements to the accounts of Samuel and Kings. St. Jerome suggested the title “Chronicle of the whole sacred history”, which more faithfully renders the Hebrew and was followed by Martin Luther and others. We likewise follow that title and an outline of the work that treats it as the original one book. In short, the book gives a skeleton of the history from creation to David, covers David and Solomon in greater detail with an emphasis on temple matters, and then traces Judah’s kings after Solomon through the exile to the order for the exiles to return. (Remember that, even though the events of the northern kingdom are virtually ignored, the author is concerned with all Israel.)

Reading 1 Chronicles 1-5 we begin the section dealing with the genealogies from creation to restoration, today covering the lines of the patriarchs (chapter 1), the sons of Jacob (2:1-2), the family of Judah (2:3-4:23), the sons of Simeon (4:24-43), and the line of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (chapter 5). I know the names are a lot to plow through and probably do not mean much to you as you read them (especially when the genealogies begin without any introduction and in some cases don’t even indicate how people were related). Please ask questions if you have them. Remember that the chronicler is trying to show how the people who returned from exile still were connected to the past, locating their present in the center of God’s purposes. And, if nothing else, take comfort that there are just a few chapters of genealogies; we will get back to a more usual narrative form tomorrow.

In contrast to yesterday’s briefer folos related mostly to linked tidbits, today I have one Biblog folo pertaining to the meatier matter of the Bible readings themselves. A reader recently emailed to comment on the difficulty of the last five books, noting how the different and unfamiliar names, places, and events sort of run together and hoping for easier books in the near future. I certainly agree that Judges through 2 Kings can be difficult reading. Reading Chronicles will help, as we revisit, in one form or another, some of the events of the recent books. And, I can say from personal experience that reading through these books a second time, as in next year, will also help. I’m not sure that the upcoming reading will be much easier, although some of it will shed some light on the events we have read recently. Still, I do not think we should beat ourselves up if we cannot keep all the names, places, and events straight. Remember Luther’s advice about passing things by and glorifying God! The New Testament accounts draw our attention to some of the more notable events of the Old Testament, but even those specific events often are to be understood as illustrating major themes or pointing to their New Testament fulfillment. We should at least be sure to recognize how God intervened in history to accomplish His purposes for His chosen people, and we should remember that God continues to intervene in our time to accomplish His purposes for us, His chosen people.

Today's tidbits begin with the Dominican Republic refusing to legalize abortion in cases of rape or incest. ... The Senate Tuesday passed an abortion parental notification bill, but now it needs to be reconciled with the House’s version. ... Next on the Senate’s agenda could be San Diego’s Mt. Soledad, while the judicial process may make the matter a legal test case. ... A federal bankruptcy judge says Portland’s Roman Catholic archdiocese does not have to liquidate a trust fund to pay clergy abuse settlements. ... Applicants to Harvard’s business school now have three choices for “gender”. ... A traditional Anglican priest blames the Episcopal church’s liberalness on its departure from the Word of God. ... And, an ancient copy of the Psalms was found in an Irish bog.

There's a new Q&A here (it's a bit of a Biblog folo from yesterday’s post). God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 25, 2006

Ps 51/ 2 Ki 23-25 / Folos / Tidbits

Psalm 51 is appointed today, and I want to make one clarification of my previous comments. When verse 4 says we sin “only” against God, the “only” does not rule out some of the same sins also being against our fellow human beings. So, in the case of David, his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah were also sins against Bathsheba and Uriah. Any sin against our neighbors is also a sin against God; for, how we are towards our neighbors reflects how we are toward God (sinning against commandments 4-10 also breaks the First Commandment). But, some sins are only sins against God. For sins that are also against our neighbors we should also seek our neighbors’ forgiveness. They can and should forgive the sins we commit against them, but they cannot forgive the sins we commit against God, although they might tell us that God forgives us. Only God can forgive sins committed against Him, and for that He chooses to work through His called and ordained servants who are authorized to retain (that is, not forgive) or to forgive those sins on His behalf.

By reading 2 Kings 23-25 today we not only finish the major section that deals with Judah from Hezekiah to its exile in Babylon, but we also finish the book of Kings. We should appreciate the bright spot at the beginning of today’s reading before things really go downhill. These three chapters first finish the account of Josiah (23:1-30), and then they give us the accounts of Jehoahaz exiled to Egypt (23:31-35), of Jehoiakim and Babylon’s first invasion (23:36-24:7), of Jehoiachin and Babylon’s second invasion (24:8-17), of Zedekiah (24:18-20), of Judah’s exile to Babylon (25:1-21), of the remnant’s removal to Egypt (25:22-26), and of the elevation of Jehoiachin in Babylon (25:27-30). Josiah’s reform seems to have removed many of the sinful practices of his predecessors going back all the way to Solomon (in Judah and apparently also in Samaria), as had been foretold by the prophet from Bethel (1 Kings 13:31-32). While the measures were surely good for those affected, they did not spare Judah God’s judgment and planned sentence of exile. Note that in 23:39 Pharaoh Neco is going up probably to help the Assyrians in one last futile attempt to resist the Babylonians. Neco killed Josiah, imprisoned his son and successor, Jehoahaz, and made Jehoahaz’s brother Eliakim king but called him Jehoiakim. Thus Judah was afflicted by Egypt and then by the Babylonians, and the Divinely-inspired author of Kings makes it clear the afflictions were consequences of Judah’s unfaithfulness. Even the kings put in place by their subjectors rebelled against them, however, instead of recognizing God’s hand in things, and thereby added to their difficulties. An extended siege of Jerusalem ultimately led to its destruction. God does follow through on His promised judgment; we should never let His delays intended for our repentance deceive us. At the same time, God continues to be gracious and merciful and deliver His people, as we will see when we pick up the story from the exile next month. (First we have a recap of the kings of Judah beginning tomorrow with Chronicles.)

After more than a week without any Biblog folos, I have a bunch today.

  • Sunday’s reading of 2 Kings 16:3 and Ahaz’s sacrificing his son in the fire, which I referred to as “giving his son to Molech”, prompted a reader to comment that Ahaz’s action was not quite like Hannah’s giving her son to the Lord. Indeed! (See 1 Samuel 1-2.)

  • Sunday’s post included a tidbit about Arkansas’ Episcopal bishop giving the okay for congregations in that state to bless gay couples. The article included a comment from the bishop about his friends finding it difficult that Episcopalians could bless animals but not gay relationships. A reader found the comparison interesting and asked whether it was his or his friends. I would say the comment makes it sounds like the comparison was his friends, but if it moved the bishop, he must have bought into it in some way. With all due respect to St. Francis of Assisi, who blessed animals, I don’t think animals should be blessed as if being baptized nor do I think the blessing animals and same-sex relationships are analogous.

  • In regards to a tidbit linked last Wednesday about courts possibly not upholding Ohio’s order to display state and national mottos mentioning God on the basis of them being religious expression, a reader contrasted the witchcraft of the Harry Potter stories to which children are exposed.

  • Also on Wednesday a tidbit linked to analysis about changes in the Superman story, and a reader emailed to comment on the linked piece being a very good story.

  • Sunday’s post linked to a story about cell phones being the new teen addiction, and a reader commented that not all cell phone users today are teens. I would agree, and I might add that teens are not the only ones addicted.

  • Speaking of cell phones, Sunday’s post also linked to an article about churches using their steeples for cell phone towers, and a reader emailed the comment that the use wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t an eyesore and could assume legitimate social and businesses uses, which the reader thought was more than the phone company could guarantee.

  • And speaking of calling, a link in Sunday’s post to a news release about President Bush’s having declared Sunday Parents’ Day prompted a reader to ask whether the declaration was sponsored by phone companies. (Oops! I knew there was something I meant to mention to my parents when I talked to them on Sunday.) We might also ask about greeting card manufacturers! And, I might ask when Children’s Day is, but I know the usual parents’ answer: “Every day is Children’s Day!”
I guess that’s enough Biblog folos for today’s post!

Tidbits today number a "perfect" seven. Amnesty International is increasingly under fire for its support of abortion. ... The U.S. Senate today is to debate a parental-notification abortion bill. ... Democrats are reportedly playing up the claim pregnancy resource centers exaggerate the potential of abortions (already last week I linked to this refutation of the report). ... Pressure from two Utah congressmen prompted the Smithsonian to change an exhibit to be more favorable to Mormons. ... One commentator equates fertility clinics to death camps (thanks to the reader who sent in this link). ... This commentator suggests baby-boomers made a deal with the devil. ... Just when you thought the whole descendants of Jesus nonsense was over, another author comes along with a new twist (thanks to the reader who sent in this link).

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 24, 2006

2 Ki 19-22

(As you read Psalm 50 today, these comments may be of help.)

As we read 2 Kings 19-22 today, we continue the major section that deals with Judah from Hezekiah to its exile in Babylon. First we finish the cliff-hanger account of Hezekiah (chapters 19-20). Then, we read of the reigns of Manasseh (21:1-18), Amon (21:19-26), and Josiah (22:1-23:30, although today we only read through the end of chapter 22). I want to make a few comments on the reading, and you are welcome, as always, to ask about anything that is not clear to you. In chapters 19 and 20 notice more “rare” mentions of one of the major writing prophets of the day. Hezekiah turns to the Lord through Isaiah the prophet and is delivered in keeping with Isaiah’s prophecy. The mentions of “the remnant” in 19:4 and 30-31 are significant. We should note that its preservation is not due to the work of anyone other than the Lord, and we should draw comfort as it applies to the few faithful today. Hezekiah wanted a sign, and the Lord gave him one, and Hezekiah’s recovery in some ways led to Babylon’s invasion (see also these comments on Isaiah 38-39). In chapter 21, the Divinely-inspired author of Kings contrasts well how what was intended for the honor and glory of the Lord was desecrated by Manasseh’s idolatry and makes it clear that Judah was going to suffer punishment similar to Israel’s. Also in chapter 21, we read how Amnon was killed by his own officials (is he the first Judean king so killed?) and how the people killed the conspirators and made Josiah king. In chapter 22, we hear how during Josiah’s reign was there was a rediscovery of either the entire Pentateuch or part or all of Deuteronomy. Either way, we should remember that this “Book of the Law (torah)” is more than just law in the narrow sense; it also included the Gospel promises. The king repented, and God promised Josiah would not see Judah’s exile. We are similarly blessed as we sorrow over our sins and trust in God for forgiveness for Jesus’ sake. (More on Josiah’s reformation tomorrow!)

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 23, 2006

Ps 49 / 2 Ki 16-18 / Tidbits

My previous comments on Psalm 49 provide a good overview, but I also want to emphasize today how inadequate humans are to redeem anyone else, let alone themselves. Verses 7-9 state well that even human redeemers under the old covenant cannot help a person escape death. Something more is needed. Verse 15 makes clear that God redeems. We remember that our Savior had to be true man to take our place under the law and die in our place, and we remember that our Savior had to be true God so that His fulfilling the law might be sufficient for all, that His life and death might be a sufficient ransom, and that He might overcome death and the devil for us. (See the 1943 Short Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, questions 129-130 on pages 106-107.)

Our reading 2 Kings 16-18 today finishes the major section of the book that deals both with Israel from the reign of Joram until its exile in Assyria and with Judah from the reign of Jehoram through that of Ahaz, and our reading begins the next major section that deals with Judah from Hezekiah to its exile in Babylon. (I ask your forgiveness for some previously incorrect section labeling.) In the case of the first major section, we read of Ahaz of Judah (chapter 16), of Hoshea of Israel (17:1-6), and of Israel’s exile and its land’s resettlement (17:7-41). In the case of the second major section, we begin the account of Hezekiah (chapter 18).

As we read chapter 16, we note that, in contrast to his father Jotham (15:34), Ahaz is an especially bad successor in Judah, and we note how he sinned in the ways of the kings of Israel and followed pagan practices such as giving his son to Molech, which Moses had forbidden in Leviticus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 18:10. Ahaz invited Assyria to help Judah against Aram and Israel, pledging submission and buying Assyria’s assistance with temple treasures. Apparently figuring Assyria’s god was the better god and deferring to Tiglath-Pileser, Ahaz changed Judah’s worship to be more like Assyria’s pagan practices. Chapter 17 tells how Israel’s attempt to change its alliance from Assyria to Egypt prompted Assyria to lay siege against Israel. The author of Kings makes it clear that Israel’s exile to Assyria was the result of its sin against the Lord by breaking its covenant with the Lord and ignoring His calls to repentance through the prophets. Though those brought in to replace the Israelites in the land went through the motions of worshiping the Lord, they did so syncretistically, that is, they also worshiped their own gods, and set the pattern for generations that followed.

Back in Judah, Hezekiah succeeds his father Ahaz and is a much better king, one of the few favorably compared to David. (You may remember the bronze snake Moses had made in the desert at the Lord’s command, as told in Numbers 21:8-9.) Hezekiah rebelled against Assyria and was ruling when Assyria took Israel. Eight years later, a different king of Assyria, Sennacherib, attacked Judah with some success, and Hezekiah emptied the temple and palace treasuries to buy that king’s favor. The Assyrian king’s commander nevertheless threatened Jerusalem with some deceptive statements and with some true statements, both intended to turn the people against Hezekiah. (For example, the high places removed were not the Lord’s, but Sennacherib may have known about the prophecies foretelling conquest of Judah.) A long siege of war could indeed have the hardships described in 18:27, and in 18:31 the Assyrian commander contrasts them well with what the people would prefer in peaceful times. Notice the error in reasoning the Assyrian commander makes in 18:33-35 by comparing the false gods of the nations the Assyrians had defeated with the one true God. Just how Hezekiah responds to the Assyrian threat will have to wait until tomorrow!

As I read the chapters today, I could not help but reflect on the fact that some of the same places involved in the wars then are involved in the war today, with some of the same ever-changing alliances. Here’s a nice piece about more recent history, but I’m thinking about something more ancient. How far we have not come! Lord, have mercy!

Tidbits today begin with Arkansas’ Episcopal bishop okaying same-sex blessings in the state, even though Arkansas has banned gay marriages. ... Homosexual activists yesterday wrapped up a week-long demonstration at Focus on the Family’s headquarters. ... Methodists are signing the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, and some so-called Lutherans say there’s no turning back from what they call “reconciliation”. ... They all seem to miss the fact that there is the one, true faith and there is everything else. ... Cell phones are being called the new teen addiction. ... Some congregations needing extra income are turning to this calling. ... And, call your parents, if you can, President Bush says today is Parents’ Day.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make it holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 22, 2006

Ps 48 / 2 Ki 13-15 / Tidbits

Today as we read Psalm 48 I want to echo and emphasize a comment I made previously. Verse 8 is the center of the psalm structurally and thematically and thus deserves our special attention. People hear about God from someone else, but ultimately those who come into God’s house see for themselves. We experience God’s grace, blessing, and forgiveness for ourselves in the liturgy of the Divine Service. That experience then both moves us to tell the next generation and becomes the basis of what we tell (v.13).

2 Kings 13-15 tells us of eight kings of Israel and three kings of Judah, as we continue the major section of the book that deals both with Israel from the reign of Joram until its exile and with Judah from the reign of Jehoram through that of Ahaz. We begin today with Israel’s kings Jehoahaz (13:1-9) and Jehoash (13:10-25), the latter of which includes Elisha’s last prophecy. Then we go back and forth: to Judah for Amaziah’s reign (14:1-22), to Israel for Jeroboam II’s reign (14:23-29), and to Judah for Azariah’s reign (15:1-7). Then we go back to Israel for five kings: Zechariah (15:8-12), Shallum (15:13-15), Menahem (15:17-22), Pekahiah (15:23-26), and Pekah (15:27-31). Finally we finish today with Jotham of Judah (15:32-38). None of the kings of whom we read were completely faithful; even the better ones let some of the evil practices continue. And, as bad as things got in Israel, the nation had not reached the point where God was ready to let them be carried in to exile, yet (see 14:27).

I want to try to anticipate a few questions and clarify a few things. In 13:5 the deliverer is thought to have possibly been the Assyrians’ attacks on the Arameans, which allowed the Israelites to retake land they had lost and thus allowed refugees to return to their homes. In 13:14 calling Elisha “The chariots and horsemen of Israel” (as Elisha himself had called Elijah in 2:12) is a confession that the prophet is more significant than Israel’s military forces, if not the Lord Whom the prophet represents. Jehoash in 13:18-19 did not too enthusiastically respond to Elisha’s command, and his response impacted how God delivered them, as we read in 13:25. In 14:6 we are reminded that people die for their own sins, although sometimes children suffer consequences of their parents’ sins, as when children of unbelievers are not raised in the faith. In 14:9 Jehoash uses a fable to tell Amaziah that Israel was stronger than Judah, which could be easily defeated. In 14:25, note the mention of Jonah the prophet; the occurrence is a rare mention on the pages of Kings and Chronicles of the literary prophets even though they come fast and furious during Israel and Judah’s final days. In 15:16 we see the viciousness of Menahem, but we remember that other armies were equally vicious (see, for example, 8:12). But, as we read in 15:19-20, Menahem had to pay Pul of Assyria to keep his tenuous hold on the throne. In 15:32, “Uzziah” is apparently another name for “Azariah”.

Tidbits today number a perfect dozen (be glad they don't number the more perfect 144,000?). The U.S. Congress is not surprisingly on the side of Israel in that country's latest conflict. (I guess Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinians, in which the United States is complicit, don’t matter.) ... A Republican senator says the title “war on terror” is putting it too mildly. ... The chief of the National Guard recently made some religiously controversial comments. ... The state of Virginia is dictating how a family treats its teenage son's cancer. ... Great Britain may let those over sixteen opt out of religious worship in schools. ... The number of abstinent teens is reportedly on the rise. ... An “enlightened” Kentucky university is offering its employees’ domestic partners benefits. ... One of the couples that brought Massachusetts gay marriage is in a gay separation. (Thanks to a reader for sending in this link.) ... The origin of homosexuality is at the center of competing ad campaigns in Colorado. (Here's the site for "Born different", and here's the site for "No moo lies".) ... Your tax dollars are promoting traditional marriage and fatherhood. ... The Disney company supposedly won’t be making any more R-rated movies. ... And wacky weather in St. Louis has affected the headquarters of the LCMS (and the lives of people I know in that city).

God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 21, 2006

2 Ki 10-12 / Tidbits

(As you read Psalm 47, these previous comments may be of help.)

Reading 2 Kings 10-12 continues the major section of the book that deals both with Israel from the reign of Joram until its exile and with Judah from the reign of Jehoram through that of Ahaz. Today we hear both the rest of the account of Jehu’s revolt and reign in Israel (chapter 10) and the account of Athaliah and Joash of Judah and their repairs of the temple (chapter 11-12). As we read in chapter 10, Jehu accomplished much in the way of carrying out the Lord’s judgment on those who previously had been unfaithful, but Jehu did not fully lead Israel out its idolatry. Chapter 11 takes us back down to Judah, where Athaliah, the mother of the recently murdered king Ahaziah (9:27), took the throne for herself in part by killing off the rest of the royal family. But, Jehosheba (who was a daughter of King Jehoram likely by a different wife than Athaliah—thus more of a “half-sister” to Ahaziah—and wife of Jehoiada the high priest, according to 2 Chronicles 22:11) saved Joash, an essentially newborn son of Ahaziah. In due time, Jehoiada had Joash publicly proclaimed king, and Jehoiada had Athaliah killed. We read in chapter 12 of Joash’s repairs to the Temple. Realize since Joash was seven years old when he became king that his uncle Jehoiada, the high priest, was most likely in some ways ruling through Joash. You get a hint in 12:2 and 12:20-21 of how Joash ruled without Jehoiada’s influence, something we will read more of when we revisit the kings of Judah by reading Chronicles. Even here in Kings, however, Joash’s failure to be completely faithful is evident in 12:3 and 12:18. Overall, even though Jehu’s reign began with so much bloodshed and Joash was not perfect either, what welcome increased faithfulness came to both Israel and Judah during the events of today’s reading!

Tidbits today begin with pregnancy resource centers accused of lying to women. ... The Methodist college where two accused arsonists attended is helping the victimized churches. ... So-called evangelical Christians are supporting Israel, but I haven’t been convinced of a “biblical responsibility” to do so. ... Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod officials are recommending fellowship with congregations that didn’t join the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) back in 1987 but instead formed the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC). ... Like their LCMS counterparts, the ELCA is releasing a new hymnal this fall. ... The Pope is working on his own new book. ... And, if there was any doubt that Roman Catholics still preach the saints as intermediaries, check this out.

Since we've wrapped up the class with the Rev. Professor Kurt E. Marquart (it was a good one), I will especially welcome your questions on the readings! God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 20, 2006

Ps 46 / 2 Ki 7-9 / Israel and Lebanon / Tidbits

There are previous general comments on Psalm 46 here, there is a specific comment on verse 10 here, and two more comments follow. First, as I read the general comments I reflected on the relationship between the blessings on Zion (vv.4-6) and God’s triumph over the nations (vv.8-10). In God’s protecting His chosen city, He also defeats Zion’s enemies. The two are not separate deeds of God, and so there’s little surprise our response is the same (vv.7, 11). Second, notice in verse 5 that God’s help comes “right early” (KJV, ASV; “at break of day” NIV; “when morning dawns” NASB). See Exodus 14:27 for how God’s deliverance of the Israelites by destroying the Egyptians came at this same time. Though some commentators say regarding Psalm 46:5 that morning was when cities were more likely to be attacked, the night was also a time of danger, as in Isaiah 37:36. (Even in our time think of the frequent night attacks during the first Gulf War). We should not think that God waited until the danger had passed before delivering us, but rather God’s help brings the dawn of deliverance, and there is only a night of trouble—the danger does not continue indefinitely. (No wonder Scripture so often says praise is done “in the morning”.) God comes at precisely the right time to save. How blessed we are that God knows our limits and with His help enables us to endure whatever comes until He finally and fully delivers us.

2 Kings 7-9 finishes the major section that deals with Elisha in the time of Joram and begins the next major section that deals both with Israel from the reign of Joram until its exile and with Judah from the reign of Jehoram through that of Ahaz. More specifically, we hear of Aram lifting its siege of Israel as Elisha had prophesied (7:1-20), of the Shunammite’s land being restored (8:1-6), of Elisha prophesying that Hazael would oppress Israel (8:7-15), of Jehoram reigning in Judah (8:16-24), of Ahaziah reigning in Judah (8:25-29), and of Jehu revolting at God’s command and reigning (chapters 9-10, although today we only read chapter 9). As you read, note the following things. Elisha in 7:1 prophesies that the incredibly high prices and eating of unclean foods in 6:25 will be alleviated miraculously, which happens as he says. Those hearing the account were to know that God graciously delivered His people and that those who rejected His Word suffered divine wrath. Even though according to Elisha’s prophesy in 8:10-13 Ben-Hadad was to recover from his illness and Hazael was to oppress Israel, Hazael murdered Ben-Hadad and usurped his throne. God’s prophecy against Ahab’s house and against Jezebel (see 1 Kings 21:21-24) are fulfilled in chapter 9. Notice that in 9:31 Jezebel calls Jehu “Zimri”, recalling the man who had taken Elah’s throne and destroyed the house of Baasha (1 Kings 16:8-20). In today’s reading we see a good example of the prophets involved in political matters, both domestic and foreign, but we should remember that Israel was a church-state, and our country today is not.

I want to mention two things you might have missed in NBC’s coverage of Israel and Lebanon Wednesday. First, Israel shelled a wealthy Christian neighborhood in Lebanon where there are no members of Hezbollah. Second, although two people were killed in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, I had a hard time imagining it as Jesus’ hometown when the video images were of a damaged Mazda dealership.

Just three tidbits follow today. President Bush followed through on his promise to veto the latest attempt to have the government fund the destruction of human life in the name of science and medicine. ... Democrats reportedly have a five-point plan to help gay groups fight efforts to support traditional marriage. ... And, a judge has thrown out what was being called the “men’s Roe v. Wade” case.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 19, 2006

2 Ki 4-6 / Tidbits

(Here’s a good overview of Psalm 45, which is appointed for today.)

2 Kings 4-6 continues telling of Elisha during Joram’s reign, which is a subsection of the major section that deals with the ministries of Elijah and Elisha and other prophets during the time of the kings from Ahab and Asa to Joram and Jehoshaphat. In chapter 4 we hear of Elisha’s ministry to needy ones in Israel, and in chapter 5 we hear of Elisha’s healing Naaman. Chapter 6 tells us of Elisha delivering a prophet (6:1-7) and Joram (6:8-23), and it begins the account of the lifting of a Aramean siege as Elisha had prophesied (6:24-33). In 2 Kings 4, God's through Elisha providing oil to relieve the widow’s debts (and feeding 100 with 20 loaves of bread!) and His resurrecting the Shunammite’s son recalls His providing food for the widow of Zarephath and raising her son (1 Kings 17). Such miracles show God’s grace distributed through the prophetic office and also attest to the authority given to the prophets; Jesus similarly performed feeding and healing miracles. In Elisha’s case, the woman who recognized him as a holy prophet was both blessed and tested. In chapter 5, Naaman’s healing of leprosy by washing in the Jordan points to our cleansing from sin by the washing of Holy Baptism. Naaman wanted the Lord to work through something great, but God chose then to work through something ordinary, even as He chooses to work today. Naaman was thankful, but Gehazi took advantage of that kindness and paid the price. In chapter 6, the revelation of the hills full of horses and chariots of fire is significant: comforting Elisha’s servant as such knowledge of God’s forces for us comforts us. The impact of the Lord’s intervention in the conflict between Aram and Israel was short lived. As Aram besieged Israel and the people were so starved they did nearly unspeakable things, King Joram in 6:27 rightly recognized help needed to come from the Lord, but he failed to recognize that the afflictions were consequences for his and the people’s sin.

Tidbits are back today. (Sorry my long day Monday kept me from them yesterday!) The U.S. Senate approved more government-funded stem-cell research, which would murder created lives, so expect President Bush’s veto as soon as today. Meanwhile, the U.S. House did as expected: failed to pass a measure to restrict gay marriage. ... The Jack Abramoff scandal apparently is to blame for keeping the former head of the Christian Coalition from winning the Republican primary for Georgia’s lieutenant governor. ... That South Dakota Native American leader fired in an abortion flap has been reinstated. ... More families are reportedly living without children. ... This story is disturbing on all sorts of levels. ... Ohio now has a law requiring schools to display the nation’s and the state’s so-called “God mottos”. ... And, changes in Superman’s motto has one conservative commentator criticizing.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 18, 2006

2 Ki 1-3

(Don’t forget to read Psalm 44 appointed for today; these comments might help.)

Today reading 2 Kings 1-3 takes us into the next canonical Old Testament book, and you can find some introductory remarks here. The narrative continues straight from where 1 Kings left off, continuing the major section dealing with the ministries of Elijah and Elisha and other prophets during the time of the kings from Ahab and Asa to Joram and Jehoshaphat. Today’s reading thus continues the subsection telling of King Ahaziah of Israel and Elijah’s last prophecy (2 Kings 1:1-18), and it takes us through the subsection telling of Elijah’s translation to heaven and Elisha’s inauguration (2 Kings 2:1-18) and begins the next subsection telling of Elisha during Joram’s reign, narrating Elisha’s first miraculous signs (2:19-25) and his service during a campaign against Moab (chapter 3). The following notes may be helpful as you read. Remember that the account of Ahaziah had begun in 1 Kings 22:51. Joram was Ahaziah’s younger brother (3:1). Elisha apparently wanted to stay with Elijah until the Lord took him. Their parting and crossing the Jordan recalls Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea and Joshua’s crossing of the Jordan. Elisha was not vain or wanting to be a greater prophet, but he spoke in 2:9 in the language of inheritance law, such as Deuteronomy 21:17, under which the firstborn son received a double portion of what the father had. (You might think of our last Old Testament window in the church that depicts Elijah’s departure and Elisha’s receiving the vestment of the office.) The youth of Bethel showed their disregard for Elisha by calling him “baldhead”, and the curse Elisha called down on them warned the nation of its apostasy. As the kings of Israel and Judah teamed up to put down Moab they were aided by the Lord Who continued to show them His covenant faithfulness, mercy, and love.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 17, 2006

Ps 43 / 1 Ki 21-22

You can find some earlier comments on Psalm 43 here, and I make a few additional comments today, too. Apart from God’s Presence we can only feel rejected and mourn (v.2). God’s personified light (mercy) and truth (His faithfulness to His promises) are needed for us to come to where He dwells and reveals Himself (v.3); we cannot decide to come to or follow Jesus. Once on God’s holy mountain and place of His dwelling, we commune from His altar and, having received the forgiveness of sins, make a sacrifice of praise, lips that confess His Name. This certain, expected deliverance provides the soul the encouragement (v.5) that prompted the opening petition (v.1). Let us pray that God’s mercy and faithfulness show forth from our lives to those around us that through us God might work to bring others to His holy house where God can reveal Himself to them and give them His gift of the forgiveness of sins.

1 Kings 21-22 continues the major section dealing with the ministries of Elijah and Elisha and other prophets during the time of the kings from Ahab and Asa to Joram and Jehoshaphat. Today we first finish the subsection dealing with Elijah and other prophets in the reign of Ahab; chapter 21 tells of Elijah's condemning Ahab for seizing Naboth’s vineyard, and 22:1-40 tells of Micaiah's prophesying of Ahab’s death and of that prophecy being fulfilled. Then, we read through the subsection regarding King Jehoshaphat of Judah (22:41-50) and begin the subsection telling of King Ahaziah of Israel and Elijah’s last prophecy (1 Kings 22:51 through 2 Kings 1:18, though today we only read 1 Kings 22:51-53). (Note that Jehoshaphat was mentioned back in 15:24 and is involved in the events of 22:1-33 but is not formally introduced and treated “completely” until 22:41-50.) Ahab, already under a death sentence from chapter 20, in chapter 21 makes matters worse for himself by coveting Naboth’s vineyard and then essentially murdering to steal it, for all of which he receives a worse sentence. Ahab’s wife Jezebel also continues her evil deeds, knowing enough of the law of the Covenant to make her plot, and comes under a similar sentence. Notice in 21:22 how Ahab’s failed reign is likened to those of Jeroboam and Baasha, and notice in 21:27-29 how Ahab’s at least temporary sorrow over his sentence prompted the Lord to delay, but not rescind, its execution. In the beginning of chapter 22, the seemingly ever-changing relationships between Judah, Israel, and Aram change again. This time Judah goes against the Lord’s will to align with Israel against Aram. Israel’s false prophets say what Ahab wants to hear, but, after mockingly predicting success, the true prophet Micaiah, using familiar imagery of the sheep without a shepherd, said what the Lord wanted him to say. Micaiah’s depicting the source of prophecy as the heavenly throne-room is significant. You might want to read 2 Timothy 4:3-4 and reflect on how faithful pastors today similarly have no choice in what they proclaim.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 16, 2006

Ps 42 / 1 Ki 18-20 / Tidbits

There is a good overview of Psalm 42 in my previous post about it, but today when I read it I was struck by and wanted to comment more on the idea of the soul thirsting for God as the dear pants for water (verses 1-2). The idea is found elsewhere in the Psalms, as in 63:1 and 143:6, but there are New Testament passages that quickly come to my mind, such as Matthew 5:6 (the “parallel” statement in Luke 6:21 just focuses on hunger, however), John 7:37-38 (for which I indicated a better translation here), and Revelation 22:17—no surprise the last two specifically mention the “living water” or “water of life”. (See also the invitation in Isaiah 55:1.) Especially in these hot summer months we might begin to have a sense of the kind of literal thirst living in the desert might generate, but the thirst in view in the passages I’ve mentioned is more of a figurative one like that mentioned by Amos in 8:11-14. God not only provided literal water to His thirsty people in the desert, but He also provides the figurative thirst-quencher, to borrow Gatorade’s catchword. Remember how God provided from the rock and how St. Paul said that spiritual rock is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). The figurative thirst is “to desire passionately a spiritual good without which one cannot live”. Those who do not drink now will thirst eternally in the torments of hell (Luke 16:24), but when we now keep drinking of the Water of Life in the Person of Jesus Christ, His Word, and His Sacraments (in this case, especially Baptism and its water), then truly we will never thirst again (see John 4:5-14).

Reading 1 Kings 18-20 today, we continue the major section dealing with the ministries of Elijah and Elisha and other prophets during the time of the kings from Ahab and Asa to Joram and Jehoshaphat. More specifically, we continue the subsection dealing with Elijah and other prophets during the reign of Ahab in Israel, with, among other things, chapter 18 telling of Elijah on Mount Carmel, chapter 19 telling of Elijah’s flight to Horeb, and chapter 20 telling of another prophet condemning Ahab for sparing Ben-Hadad. Chapter 18 is a flashpoint today in our church body, with both sides of the controversy over the so-called “Yankee Stadium event” using the events on Mount Carmel in support of their positions. I think the text is fairly clear on its own and that those who claim its support for that syncretistic service in the wake of September 11, 2001, blatantly misuse the passage. Notice in 18:24 how Elijah clearly says the Baal’s prophets will pray to (“call on”) their God, and Elijah, as the only prophet standing publicly for the Lord (18:22) will pray to his. They did not join together in prayer or in worship. Elijah’s taunting of Baal’s prophets borders on the comical, including the suggestion that Baal was in the bathroom (18:27, “pursuing”, KJV; “gone aside”, ASV, NASB; “busy”, NIV) and yet Baal’s prophets take his suggestions seriously. With the water poured over the Lord’s sacrifice (see the bottom of the seventh Old Testament window in our church), Elijah makes the Lord’s answer more impressive. (Notice in 18:37 how conversion and repentance are attributed to the Lord.)

In chapter 19, Ahab’s pagan wife Jezebel, apparently with Ahab’s consent or because he couldn’t stop her, intimidated Elijah into fleeing for his life. Elijah apparently recognized his own unfaithfulness (19:4), but the Lord strengthened him (19:5-8; our Lord’s 40 days in the desert and strengthening by angels certainly bring to mind this incident and its precedent, the 40 years in the wilderness). Although at Mt. Horeb (also called Mt. Sinai) the Lord appeared to Elijah in a “still small voice” (KJV, ASV; “gentle whisper”, NIV; “gentle blowing”, NASB; or maybe better “the sound of a thin/gentle silence”), we should not expect the Lord to appear or speak to us in such “immediate” (that is, without mediation) or “internal” ways (that is, just through our conscience); rather, the Lord speaks to us through His Word and Sacraments, preached and distributed by those He has called and ordain to do so (anything apart from that, we believe, teach, and confess, is of the devil). The Lord’s message to Elijah reassured him that there was a faithful remnant in Israel and also directed him to anoint Elisha as his successor—the Church goes on despite all the unfaithfulness in the world and despite the world’s hostile threats.

In chapter 20, Aram is again on the march against Israel (in this passage called “Samaria”). At first Ahab was going to simply submit to Aram’s king Ben-Hadad to spare lives and prevent plundering. But, at the Lord’s direction through an unnamed prophet, Ahab fights back, and with the Lord’s gracious deliverance prevails against Aram, but Ahab does not follow through all the way on the Lord’s command. So, the prophet returns and delivers the Lord’s judgment on Ahab and the people he ruled. We will see that judgment carried out in our readings to come.

Tidbits today number a perfect seven. Intercontinental missiles aren’t the only reason to be concerned about North Korea; religious persecution is on the list, too. ... Gays are accused of intolerance in Rhode Island. ... A New York Appeals Court refuses to settle a matter between an American Greek Orthodox diocese and a group of parishioners. (The precedent might have mattered to some in our Synod.) ... Sounds like Roman Catholics are playing word games with marriage. ... A group of Benedictine women in Wisconsin have broken away from the Roman Catholic Church. ... On a day the Gospel tells us about the calling of fisherman to be disciples, Dallas’ Roman Catholic bishop hopes the Pope gives him permission to go fishing. ... And, here’s an interesting way to spend the summer: Creation Camp!

There are two new Q&A here, and thanks as always to those who submit the questions! God bless your day, and may you let Him make it holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 15, 2006

Ps 41 / 1 Ki 15-17 / Folos / Tidbits

In reading Psalm 41 today, I was struck by how the Lord’s blessing and deliverance, His protection and retention, and His sustenance and restoration (verses 1-3) all could be taken to be the product of one’s regarding the weak (verse 1). The king especially was obligated to defend the powerless, but all of us share that obligation to some extent, and we all fail to do what we should. The real reason for the Lord’s blessing, deliverance, protection, retention, sustenance, and restoration is the Lord’s mercy (verses 4, 10). When the Lord in His mercy forgives us, then the Spirit at work in us brings about from us the good things Christians do. These fruits of the Spirit are according to our individual callings (vocations), which in the case of the king meant holding the enemies to account (verse 10). As for those of us without that particular vocation, we want to repay evil with good, and thereby, as St. Paul says, heap burning coals on their heads (Romans 12:17-21). (You can find the more general comments on Psalm 41 as a whole here.)

With 1 Kings 15-17 we finish reading of the kings of Israel and Judah from Jeroboam I and Rehoboam to Ahab and Asa, and we begin reading of the ministries of Elijah and Elisha and other prophets during the time of the kings from Ahab and Asa to Joram and Jehoshaphat. In chapters 15 and 16 we hear first of two more kings of Judah—Abijah (15:1-8) and Asa (15:9-24)—and then of six kings of Israel—Nadab (15:25-32), Baasha (15:33-16:7), Elah (16:8-14), Zimri (16:15-20), Omri (16:21-28), and Ahab (16:29-34). Still under the time of Ahab, in chapter 17 we hear of Elijah and the drought.

Both of Judah’s kings, Abijah in 15:2 and Asa in 15:10, are traced back to David’s son Absalom (though the spelling varies) through what was probably Absalom’s granddaughter Maacah (remember terms for family relationships are not always used as strictly as we might use them). Maacah, named after Absalom’s mother, was apparently herself the daughter of Absalom’s daughter, Tamar (presumably named for Absalom’s raped sister), and Uriel (2 Chronicles 13:2). Abijah and Asa thus have ties to two of David’s sons: Absalom, through their mother, and Solomon, through their father. (Yes, that apparently means that Rehoboam married the daughter of a half-cousin.) In 15:6, with the reference to “all of Abijah’s life”, Judah is identified by its previous king, “Rehoboam” (some manuscripts changed the name to “Abijah” to avoid the difficulty). What was essentially war continued between Israel and Judah, and various third parties were brought into the mix, such as Aram, whom Asa essentially bribed to break its deal with Israel in order to force Baasha to withdraw (15:16-22). Notice in 15:24 how this type of narration of Judah’s kings is suspended until 22:41-50.

Where Abijah and Asa were less or more faithful in Judah, the kings of Israel are generally worse. Where Judah’s kings passed by a somewhat orderly line of succession, Israel’s kings seem to have succeeded more by murderous coups d’ etat (French for, literally, “blows of state”). Still, the Lord had a hand in some successions, such as using Baasha to end the rule of Jeroboam’s family and then bringing down Baasha himself (15:25-16:7). Note that Jehu in 16:2 and 16:7 is another prophet sent from the southern kingdom to the northern. Note also that 16:22 may be a gross understatement, as Josephus suggests, although the Biblical account suggests more that Tibni died of natural causes. While Omri (16:21-28) is well-known among secular historians for other reasons, his mention here seems significant only for the move of the kingdom’s capital. With the purchase of Shemer’s hill to build a citadel-like capital for the northern kingdom, Samaria is born (16:24), and the name will sometimes be used to designate the whole northern kingdom of Israel (so will the name “Ephraim” after the northern kingdom’s largest tribe). And that kingdom of Samaria receives still more syncretistic false worship when Ahab becomes its king (16:29-33).

In chapter 17 we are introduced to the prophet Elijah, who, being from the area on the west side of the Jordan, was perhaps somewhat insulated from the northern kingdom syncretistic atrocities. Elijah went to Ahab much as Moses went to Pharaoh, and the Divinely-inspired author of Kings will make various connections between the two. Remember that Moses and Elijah visited with Jesus in the New Testament accounts of the Transfiguration: Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36; Mark 9:2-13.) The drought specifically demonstrated that Baal, regarded as a god of fertility and ruler of the rain, was powerless. Despite the drought, God provided for Elijah, whether through the brook and ravens or through the widow at Zarephath. The widow and her family in return were rewarded with food and a resurrection. Heavenly food received in faith today prepares us for our resurrection.

Biblog folos number two today. First, a tidbit linked in Friday's post about Virginia’s governor pardoning a witch after 300 years prompted a reader to email the following comment and question.

Apparently burning witches was out in this locality. Why would you suggest that calling an irrational test for criminality “an injustice” is a lack of faith? In the “test of a husband’s jealousy” the wife has a chance of living unharmed, if (presumably) innocent. (I suppose I should believe she's guilty if harmed and not wonder what was in the dirt on the floor!)

Burning or hanging supposedly followed a suspected witch’s floating in such a “trial”. The Wikipedia article on “trial by drowning” says the trial is an “urban legend”, that “there is no contemporaneous record” of one; at first I thought its authors either didn’t know about the Virginia case or didn’t consider it “contemporaneous”, but then I read behind the article and came to understand there’s no record of a person who floated being executed. The authors regard it as an urban legend because they figure “anyone with half a brain” would recognize “everyone tried by this method would die” and because the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) put an end to such “ordeals”. (Canon 19 of that Council apparently at least forbade “the blessing of water and hot iron for judicial tests or ordeals.”) I don’t know the origin of the “trial by water”, but it was precisely the trial by ordeal intended for the wife accused of unfaithfulness (Numbers 5:11-31) that prompted my comment about a potential lack of faith. If “rationality” is to be the standard in all things, a lot of things will go by the wayside. Consider this: we don’t make our final choice of which pastor to call by casting lots (Acts 1:23-26)—is that because we don’t believe God speaks that way or because voting seems more “rational”, like trial by judge or jury?

Second, a tidbit linked in Friday's post following up on a Nevada valedictorian suing over her censored graduation speech prompted a reader to email the following.

There has to be a little “leaning back” by Christians in this society. Free speech is not limited to the blasphemous and the atheists. (If she’d said something “rude” she’d have gotten away with that.)

I was never a valedictorian, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but I guess if I had a problem with they would or would not let me say that’s where and when I would make my protest, maybe refusing to speak unless I could say what I thought was appropriate. I think schools should be able to turn off the microphone if someone deviates from the approved text in any way. (I don’t think she’d have gotten away with a rude comment.) I know when I did morning announcements on the PA system in our high school one of the top school officials was standing right there to flip the switch at any moment.

I have a perfect "ten" tidbits today. There were victories against gay marriage in two states on Friday. ... A renegade Roman Catholic archbishop is calling for priests to get married. ... The Vatican is condemning Israel for escalating Middle East conflict. ... A Sikh funeral pyre is said to have broken the law in Britain. ... Your U.S. tax dollars may be paying for the sterilization of Philippine women. ... The United Nations could be establishing an agency that would help spread abortion around the world. ... The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to hear a wrongful abortion case. ... As we wait for the U.S. Senate to vote on stem-cell research in the face of an expected presidential veto, here’s a hint of the politics behind the policy; meanwhile the Senate Friday approved a measure supporting the national motto. ... The Federal Communication Commission is apparently preparing to fine television stations that broadcast sporting events where people shouted vulgarities. ... And, the creators of the show “Southpark” admit there’s a double standard when it comes to religious satire.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 14, 2006

1 Ki 12-14 / Folos / Tidbits / Pray for Peace

(Psalm 40, appointed again for today, has comments here, and the comments here are relevant to verse 2.)

1 Kings 12-14 finishes the major section on Solomon’s era and begins the next major section that tells of the kings of Israel and Judah from Jeroboam I and Rehoboam to Ahab and Asa. First we read of the kingdom dividing between Rehoboam and Jeroboam I (12:1-24), then of Jeroboam I’s reign (12:25-14:20), and finally of Rehoboam’s reign (14:21-31). Rehoboam gives Israel a reason to rebel against him by ignoring the advice of the elders who had advised his father and following the advice of his own younger friends. Initially all Israel except for the tribe of Judah left Rehoboam, fulfilling Ahijah’s prophecy (11:31-39). (Some of Benjamin was loyal to Rehoboam [see 12:21], as later some of the people in other tribes also were faithful to God’s king in Jerusalem.) As the kingdom divided, the Lord ordered the people not to engage in full-scale civil war (12:22-24, though see 14:30). Notice in 12:25-33 how rebelling against the Lord’s chosen ruler led to false worship and false priests, even by order of the king, with festivals that mimicked or at least coincided with those of the Lord. In chapter 13, a prophet from Judah, the southern kingdom, went to Israel, the northern kingdom, and declared the Lord’s judgment on the false worship, prophesying that a future king would “sacrifice” the false priests on those very altars. Jeroboam I didn’t like the message and tried to take it out on the messenger, who ultimately died anyway for his own unfaithfulness. As chapter 14 tells, when Jeroboam I’s son was ill, despite his unfaithfulness, Jeroboam I still sought out Ahijah, a true prophet of the Lord, who told Jeroboam I the consequences for his unfaithfulness to the Lord. Note in verse 17 that Tirzah was the “capital” of Israel before Samaria (16:24). Get used to the kind of summary in 14:19-20 and transition to 14:21, as they are somewhat formulaic. The “annals of the kings of Israel” in verse 19 refers to a source that we apparently no longer have. Judah did not prove to be much more faithful than Israel, as we read in 14:22-24, and Judah, too, suffered consequences, as we read in 14:25-26. We should understand that the ark and all the temple furnishings probably were taken in Shishak’s raid. Despite such dark days in both kingdoms, we will see as we continue to read that God remained faithful to His covenant, waiting for His people to repent, as He does even for us when we are unfaithful.

I have two Biblog folos today. First, Wednesday’s post linked to a site featuring a Lego Bible, and, after an email about the site, yesterday I said that the nudity I had seen saw was not at all that graphic, but readers had seen more and directed me to some of it. To be sure, what is there is not the hard-core pornography of which Justice Potter Stewart in the 1964 case Jacobellis v. Ohio said “I know it when I see it”, but neither does it fit what St. Paul describes in Philippians 4:8. I guess to some extent any link beyond what I’ve seen is proceed at your own risk.

Second, in Thursday’s post I asked the question “Can you be ‘sorry’ for something without ‘regretting’ it?” about French soccer star Zinedine Zidane comments after he head-butted the chest of an Italian player in Sunday’s World Cup final. I wondered if something was lost in translation, and a reader emailed indicating indeed something may have been.

In Germany they are giving it as, “he excuses himself but is not sorry” (er entschuldigt sich)—the gist of the message being that he acknowledges his reaction was inappropriate under the circumstances but he is not sorry. Given what was said to him it’s hard for me to disagree.

I’m not sure we know exactly what was said to him (his provoker, for example, denies insulting Zidane’s mother), but as of this writing those who think he was justified are in the minority in at least one poll. Taking the matter to a theological level, whether we think Zidane’s actions were warranted or not, we would call what Zidane is doing not “repentance” but “self-justification”.

Tidbits today number a perfect “seven”. Episcopalians are going to address an “anti-Jewish prejudice” in Scripture and liturgy. (Can you say “political correctness and universalism run amok”?) ... A group of Presbyterians says conservatives cannot stop their denomination's “plunge into apostasy”. (Some other conservatives I know may need to come to that same realization.) ... A censored Nevada valedictorian is suing over the clipping of her microphone. (Remember she departed from her approved text.) ... A Connecticut judge ruled gay couples given the new “civil union” in the state cannot have the title of “marriage”. (C.P. Krauth's progression of error is still prophetically accurate.) ... Texas’ Attorney General Greg Abbott will determine if abortion practitioners in Texas could get the death penalty. (The death penalty in such cases may be overkill, if you will pardon the expression, but let's at least recognize the life in womb for what it is.) ... Virginia’s governor has pardoned a woman convicted of witchcraft 300 years ago. (Is calling trial by water an injustice a sign of lack of faith?) ... And, if the store won’t prosecute you, is it still a sin to steal? (I think you know the answer to that.)

One final comment: a newscast Thursday night made reference to the crisis in the Middle East going back a few weeks when Palestinians allegedly abducted an Israeli soldier. I guess they meant the “current” crisis, since the contemporary tension between the Israelis and Palestinians goes back to the creation of the country of Israel in the wake of World War II took over the Palestinians’ land, and since the original tension between Arabs and Israelis goes back to Old Testament times. Pray for peace, as we do in the Divine Service, but recognize that the kind of peace we’d really like to see isn’t going to happen until Christ returns.

Peace in our hearts, our evil thoughts assuaging;
Peace in Thy Church where brothers are engaging;
Peace when the world its busy war is waging.
Calm Thy foes' raging.

Grant us Thy help till backward they are driven;
Grant them Thy truth that they may be forgiven;
Grant peace on earth or, after we have striven,
Peace in Thy heaven. (TLH #258:4-5)

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 13, 2006

1 Ki 9-11 / Lego Bible / Butting heads / Tidbits

(What a blessing to read Psalm 39 again today, and I found the earlier post on it to be helpful to read again, too.)

1 Kings 9-11 keeps us in the major section of Kings dealing with Solomon’s reign. Today we finish the subjection on his building projects, hearing of the Lord’s response to Solomon’s dedication of the temple and the Lord’s warning (9:1-9). We also read subsections characterizing Solomon’s reign (9:10-10:29), telling of his folly (11:1-13), and reporting threats to his throne (11:13-43). Imagine hearing the Lord’s warning of chapter 9 while living in exile, as some of its earliest hearers did; the consequences of unfaithfulness are so obvious! As they were obvious for the people then, so are they obvious to us now—unbelievers face an eternity in the torments of hell, apart from the presence of God. The building projects may have made Solomon more indebted to Hiram than he originally anticipated, but some suggest the cities “given” to Hiram were in Hiram’s possession only until Solomon later acquired more gold, about which we hear today, and could repay the debt. The queen of Sheba, which some think was located where Yemen is today, visits Solomon and makes the connection between Solomon’s wisdom and success and the Lord’s blessing. In Matthew 12:42 and Luke 11:31 Jesus uses the example of the queen of Sheba to condemn the people who did not recognize Him as one greater than Solomon. The contrast seems intentional between Solomon’s material splendor in 10:14-29 and his unfaithfulness demonstrated by his many and foreign wives and by the resulting erring (syncretistic!) worship practices described in 11:1-8. The Lord frustrates Solomon’s reign a little with Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam, but the Lord made clear that, on account of the Lord’s faithfulness to His covenant with David, the full consequences of Solomon’s unfaithfulness would be visited upon Solomon’s son. Just so you are ready, tomorrow we’ll begin the more or less rapid-fire accounts of Solomon’s successors.

Yesterday’s post linked to a site featuring a Lego Bible. A reader, who went a little further into site than I did initially, emailed to suggest that in some ways the project may be less than edifying. The reader sent an October 2005 Rolling Stone article, one of the press clippings about the project that is on the site and one that we should expect to make the story “sexy”. The article said the Lego Bible is “filthier than ‘Hustler’” and “more violent than The Sopranos.” One cannot deny, however, that the content of the real Bible—and so one would expect of the Lego Bible—includes “incest, gang rapes, beheadings, bestiality, and wholesale genocide”, as that same article points out. The creator of the Lego Bible, Brendan Powell Smith, while the son of an Episcopalian Sunday School teacher, is not an ordained clergyman but an atheist. He says he’s trying to “explore the Scriptures” and not mock them, and the pages of the Lego Bible that I examined seemed pretty straightforward and true to the translation he’s chosen. As for the sex and violence, although the various stories have content ratings, the “nudity” and I “violence” I saw were not at all graphic.

I don’t mean to be butting heads with anyone, but maybe someone can answer the following question for me. Can you be “sorry” for something without “regretting” it? French soccer star Zinedine Zidane Wednesday spoke out for the first time since he head-butted the chest of an Italian player in Sunday’s World Cup final, which caused officials to red-card Zidane and may have cost France the title. Zidane repeatedly said he was “sorry” for the incident but also said he didn’t “regret” it. Maybe something is getting lost in translation. (You can hear the interview in French here; I couldn't find it in English.) By definition, to be “sorry” is to be full of sorrow or express regret. By definition, to “regret” something is to feel sorrow. Aren’t they the same thing? Zidane wasn’t talking about repentance, of course, which we believe, teach, and confess is, strictly speaking, both to have sorrow over sin and to believe that sin is forgiven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. (See more about our Biblical and Confessional statements here.)

I have a "perfect" number of tidbits today. As hundreds rally in Boston, Massachusetts lawmakers won’t consider a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage until after November’s election, but even if lawmakers would put the matter to the voters, there’s skepticism that the courts would ultimately let the ban stand and that even that would solve the problem. ... A Missouri-Synod pastor in Ontario has responded to the so-called Lutherans there green-lighting the blessing of same-sex unions. The leader of the National Council of Churches, meanwhile, says Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. (I guess he must think Jesus’ words are somehow different from the rest of the Bible.) ... A five-year-old Florida boy is going to kindergarten this fall as a girl. ... Great Britain is considering a ban on what are called “sex-selection abortions”. ... The U.S. government behind the World Trade Center collapse? That’s what a University of Wisconsin professor says, and that state’s legislature isn’t doing anything about it. ... An Illinois university is ordered to reinstate a Christian student group whose privileges it once revoked for making members pledge Christian beliefs. ... And, here are some interesting thoughts about ignorance of the Christian religion even among Christians.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 12, 2006

1 Ki 7-8 / Tidbits

(Psalm 38 is appointed again today, and previous comments on it are here.)

Continuing the narration of Solomon’s reign, 1 Kings 7-8 today details the building of Solomon’s palace (7:1-12), the temple furnishings (7:13-51), and the dedication of the temple (chapter 8). Right at the beginning of chapter 7 we are told that it took nearly twice as long to build Solomon’s palace as it took to build the temple, but I don’t know that we should read much into that, as if Solomon was more concerned about his own palace than the temple. To me the multiple parts of the palace building were larger and more complex, and thus more time consuming. The details on all the temple furnishings, more than were used in the tabernacle, may have been Divinely revealed to David or Solomon, but they at least remind us that the things put into the service of God should be the best we can offer. The ark was known as the Ark of the Covenant, and so emphasis is placed on it containing the tablets of the covenant (8:9); other things Moses is sometimes said to have placed in the ark may have just been put right in front of it. Solomon’s prayer at the dedication is informative (8:23-53). Note especially that Solomon’s acknowledging God’s omnipresence (8:27) does not deny God’s special presence in Word and Sacrament in His house. The close connection between the location of God’s Name and forgiveness is also significant (8:28-30), especially as we think of God’s Name being put on us in Holy Baptism and the forgiveness we receive there. The verses following (8:33-40, 46-51) emphasize consequences for sin leading people to repent and be forgiven. We also note that non-Israelites are included in the blessings of the temple (8:41-43), so we know salvation was for Gentiles even in the Old Testament. As Gentiles, we are also blessed by God’s presence with us in the temple of temples, the human flesh of Jesus Christ, presence that continues today in Word and Sacrament to give us the forgiveness of our sins.

Tidbits today note that, as the U.S. Senate moves toward approving tax dollars for stem-cell research any day now, President Bush is promising a veto. ... The Church of England reverses itself and says female bishops are theologically justified. (They must not know the general adage that if something is “new” it generally is not theologically sound.) ... This must be why so many new LCMS missions are trying not to be Lutheran or at least not putting "Lutheran" in their names. ... A Houston billboard that for more than a week showed Jesus advertising Budweiser beer yesterday was covered over with one promoting adoption. ... All this and the Bible in Legos.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 11, 2006

Ps 37 / 1 Ki 3-6 / Folos / Tidbits

I’ve commented previously on Psalm 37, and this time as you read it I direct your closer attention to two things. First, the patience the psalmist encourages us to have as we trust in the Lord to deliver us. Especially verse 2, using an illustration we all can relate to, helps us remember that our enemies will not always endure. The psalmist continues the theme in verses 9-17, 20-22, 28, and 34-38, returning to a plant illustration in verses 35-36. The psalmist makes it clear that the Lord will in time deliver the faithful. What the faithful do in the meantime is the second thing I wanted to direct your attention to. In verse 7, the Divinely-inspired psalmist tells us to “Rest” in the Lord (KJV, ASV, NASB) or “Be still” before the Lord (NIV). One commentator describes a resigned, quiet mind that renounces self-help and rests on God, submitting to His will. This particular Hebrew verb, damam, is used of resting in quiet meditation (see also Psalm 4:4, 131:2). We should not think of the transcendental type of meditation, sitting in a yoga posture and repeating some nonsensical mantra, but of meditation that is reading God’s Word, reflecting on its message to us, and praying. The other “be still” passages I often think of, Exodus 14:14 and Psalm 46:10, use different Hebrew verbs, haresh and rapa, respectively. Their meanings can be parallel, but in Exodus 14:14 the Lord seems to be telling the people to stop calling to Him, that He is answering their call. In Psalm 46:10, if understood to be spoken to the faithful, the Lord seems to be saying “relax”, and we note well that faith is the basis for that relaxing and the patience we need. (Such is a good example of how English translations can lead us astray and how people who base their comments on the English alone can easily overstate their case.)

1 Kings 3-6 continues the major section telling of Solomon’s reign, and today we read of his wisdom (chapter 3), of his reign (chapter 4), of his preparation for the building of the temple (chapter 5), and of its construction (chapter 6). As you read chapter 3, note that Solomon’s request for wisdom (3:1-15) was not “only” a dream (3:15), the way we would say that, but had been an actual revelation from and exchange with the Lord through some sort of ecstatic vision. The following account of one of his wise rulings (3:16-28) is obviously intended to show that the Lord granted Solomon’s request. (The ruling itself has been mimicked much since, even in modern parodies.) In chapter 4’s listing of officials (4:1-19), Ben Hur in verse 8 is not to be confused with the fictional character played by Charlton Heston in the 1959 Hollywood movie. Be sure to notice in the daily provisions (4:20-28) how blessed both Judah and Israel were under Solomon, typically so with the vine and tree of 4:25. The additional description of Solomon’s wisdom (4:29-34) gives us a basis for ascribing to Solomon many of the proverbs in the book by that name (which we will read in September), although not all of those referred to in 4:32 are necessarily recorded. As you read chapter 5, remember how Hiram provided materials and labor for David’s palace (2 Samuel 5:11). I pray as you read chapter 6 and its details of the temple’s construction you will have a greater appreciation for the beauty and intention of well-designed church buildings such as ours.

I have four few quick Biblog folos today. A reader followed a posted link to this page and pointed out that (at least) the senior President Bush won’t be living in his “new world order”. ... On July 5th I linked to a chart showing different religions and the roles they give women in their churches, which chart has now been corrected with apologies as far as the LCMS is concerned, after at least my email informing Beliefnet about its previous error. ... Sunday’s link to the renovation of a 200-year-old cathedral prompted a reader to email about how refreshing such renovation was in contrast to America tearing down “old” buildings after only 30-years. ... And “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” broke a box office record this weekend, and I’m sure it was for the theological reasons I linked Saturday.

Tidbits today begin with a leader in China’s underground Church sentenced to prison. ... A Virginia church is told it can’t teach Bible studies. ... A lawsuit filed to stop Michigan universities from giving “domestic partners” benefits is drawing criticism of conservative groups. ... Massachusetts voters can have a say on the legality of same-sex marriage if the legislature lets them. ... The H-E-B grocery chain has been criticized for supporting gay pride. ... So-called “persecution” of gays in other countries may be used to “bludgeon” the church. ... Forwarding Christian-activist emails supposedly got an employee fired. ... Do you use so-called “Christian” media? Then you aren’t alone, and Protestant pastors are said to use them more than anyone. ... Protestant pastors are said to “feel confident” in their ministry, according to this survey. ... And this study says money really can’t buy happiness.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 10, 2006

1 Ki 1-2

(As you read Psalm 36 again today, you may consult these comments, if you wish.)

With our reading today of 1 Kings 1-2, we begin another new book that is half of what was originally one book, known as “Kings”, which together with the books of Samuel tell the whole history of the rise and fall of the monarchy from its beginning under Samuel to its “end” with the Babylonian exile. You can find some information about the books and overviews of them in the background information for this month’s reading (available online here and as a downloadable PDF here). Whoever the original Divinely-inspired author of the book was, whether Jeremiah as tradition suggests or someone else, the author made use of and refers to sources that no longer survive. Remember that the book is not intended to be what we would think of as a strictly objective and complete historical account but is intended to be part of the story of salvation history, likely originally intended for people going into exile on account of their unfaithfulness to God. Thus, it concentrates not on the political success of various kings but on their covenantal faithfulness, to both the covenant at Sinai and that with David. We should hardly be surprised, then, that prophets and their repeated calls to repentance also figure prominently in the narratives. I will warn you that the narratives can be a little hard to follow or seem confusing, going back and forth, as it does, between the two parts of the kingdom after it divides. When we read Chronicles we will revisit the kings of one part of the kingdom, which will help reinforce that history and be a bit easier to follow, but, the author of Kings did not lose sight of the whole of Israel, and we do not want to, either, for in Christ all Israel is restored. The split of Kings into two books as we have them happened before the time of Christ and comes in the narrative roughly at the end of the reigns of Jehoshaphat in Judah, the southern kingdom, and Ahab in Israel, the northern kingdom. The split into two books also comes in the narrative roughly at the end of the service of the prophet Elijah and the beginning of the service of the prophet Elisha (which to me seems the more likely reason for the division coming where it does). Despite the split, we will follow an organizational scheme that treats the two books as one and begins with a major section telling of Solomon’s reign.

1 Kings 1-2 tells of Solomon’s succession to the throne (1:1-2:12) and its consolidation (2:13-46). First Adonijah, the son of Haggith and apparently David’s oldest surviving son, tried to make himself king instead of letting the Lord and his father name Solomon his successor. Adonijah had some support, but the prophet Nathan worked with Solomon’s mother Bathsheba to make sure that the Lord’s will was done. Solomon at first lets Adonijah go, but Adonijah continued to conspire for the throne and was struck down. In between those two events David charges Solomon, some say from his deathbed, and we are struck by the revenge David ordered on his “enemies”, though we also note the order to continue to show mercy to them who had shown kindness to David. Note that the horns of the altar served as a place for seeking asylum because that was where the sacrificial blood was placed, but even the original covenantal stipulations for the place of asylum allowed the exception Solomon makes in the case of Joab (see Exodus 21:13-14).

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 09, 2006

2 Sa 22-24 / Tidbits

(Don’t forget to read Psalm 35 and my previous comments on it that you can find here.)

2 Samuel 22-24 finishes the book for us today by completing what is sometimes called the “final reflections on David’s reign”. Chapter 22 is David’s song of praise, chapter 23 contains the last words of David (23:1-7) and details of David’s mighty men (23:8-39), and chapter 24 gives the account of David’s census of the fighting men and the plague that it prompted (24:1-17) and of his ending the plague by building an altar on what would be the site of the Temple (24:18-25). (Note that we aren’t quite finished with David; there are a few more events involving him in 1 Kings, which we begin tomorrow.) David’s song in chapter 22 is also recorded as Psalm 18, on which you can find previous comments here and here, although the corresponding verse in the psalm is one less due to the introductory verse in 2 Samuel.

In chapter 23, David’s last poetic words are not necessarily placed there as if that’s when they were given chronologically; they more likely were given in connection with David’s charge to Solomon (1 Kings 2:1-10). The list of mighty men seems to include one group of three (Josheb-Basshebeth, Eleazar, and Shammah; 23:8-12), another group of three that though unnamed is part of the “thirty” (23:13-17), Abishai who commanded the thirty (“three” is an error in some copies of the book) and was as famous as the first group of three but was not counted among them (23:18-19), Benaiah who was a part of the “thirty” but apparently also as famous as the first group of three (23:20-23), and twenty-nine others (23:24-39). That breakdown and understanding gives a total of thirty-seven, the number given in 23:39 (commentators differ as to whether the names of the three mentioned in vv.13-17 are included in vv.24-39, but thinking they are included only gives a total of 34, unless one adds three names to the text of vv.24-39, as at least one commentator does). The title “thirty” at one time or another may have reflected the exact number in the group, but others were added and some left (for examples, Asahel, Joab’s brother, is mentioned in 23:24 but was killed as described in 2:18-23, and Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, is mentioned in 23:39 but was killed as described in 11:14-16). So, we should not be surprised that the total is not precisely thirty even though the title “thirty” is used (when we see the list again in Chronicles there will be another sixteen names). And, Joab, as the commander-in-chief, is not listed here at all.

Chapter 24 tells of David’s counting the fighting men. We don’t know why the Lord was angry with Israel, though some suggest the reason was popular support for Absalom and Sheba’s rebellions. As we confess in the Small Catechism, “God indeed tempts no one” (and see James 1:13-15), but God does allow his faithful to be tested, and in this case David failed. (See additional comments on God’s role in this previously posted Q&A.) Sinful pride may have been the more immediate motivator for this military census, and, though again opposed to the king’s thinking, Joab had the right idea for a change. The Holy Spirit working through David’s conscience leads him to repent, and the prophet Gad brings God’s options for the consequences of David’s sin. David opts for the plague, and then offers to let the buck stop with him when it reaches “the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite”. There David offered a sacrifice as directed ,and there the Temple would later be built.

Tidbits today begin with more than 100 male clergy opposed to female bishops in the Church of England threatening to leave the church. ... The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. has fired its treasurer after discovering the loss of more than $100,000. ... A Wisconsin court says marriage has no greater value to society than other intimate relationships. ... Protests may have moved an international gay pride parade from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. ... The judicial stay protecting the Mount Soledad cross in San Diego has been upheld pending a full hearing. ... A poll says British women think abortion is cruel and that too many are taking place. ... And America’s first cathedral has celebrated the 200th anniversary of its cornerstone laying.

We're nine days into July, and I haven't received any questions on the readings, so I guess everything's clear? God bless your day, and may you let Him make it holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 08, 2006

Ps 34 / 2 Sa 19-21 / Tidbits

Today as I read Psalm 34, I was struck by its invitations to others for them to join in believing in God and receiving blessings from Him: “Glorify the Lord with me” in verse 3, “Taste and see” in verse 8, “Fear the Lord” in verse 9, and “Come my children” in verse 11. These words can be found on our lips not only as we praise God using this psalm, but such expressions should be found on our lips as we invite those we know to join us in believing in God and receiving His gift of forgiveness through Word and Sacrament in the context of the Divine Service. (You can find my earlier comments on this psalm here.)

Reading 2 Samuel 19-21 today finishes the narrative of David losing Amnon and Absalom (chapters 19-20) and begins what is sometimes called “final reflections on David’s reign” (chapter 21). Chapter 19 tells how David’s mourning Absalom threatened his support among his own men, or at least how Joab perceived the threat, and the chapter tells how David returned across the Jordan and to Jerusalem. The events with people along the way show David’s graciousness, at that time, anyway, even against those who could be described as enemies. Chapter 20 tells of Sheba’s rebellion against David and how it was put down with the wisdom of a woman from the city of Abel. Before that, however, Joab killed Amasa to keep his position as David’s top commander, in the process rebelling against David, who wanted Amasa as his commander, despite his role in Absalom’s rebellion. (Remember that Amasa, Joab, and Abishai were all David’s “nephews” by daughters of a wife David’s father Jesse took, after the daughters were born.) Chapter 21 tells of an extended famine plaguing the land on account of Saul’s actions against the Gibeonites, which actions are not reported anywhere else in Scripture. Apparently at the Lord’s direction, David asked the Gibeonites what they wanted to make amends for Saul’s actions, and then he gave them seven descendants of Saul, a complete number, to kill and humiliate, although he remained faithful to his covenant with Jonathan. Chapter 21 also tells of four battles against the Philistines, which may have taken place at other times.

I have a perfect number of tidbits for you today. Bond was set Friday for that Tennesse pastor’s wife accused of killing her husband. ... Massachusetts’ legislature is working to extend the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse, which would allow a previously-unreachable Roman Catholic bishop to be prosecuted. ... The number of gay couples wanting to adopt children reportedly has doubled since 2002. ... Support of homosexual causes is said to be hurting the bottom line of the Ford Motor Company, but the impact apparently depends on whom you ask. ... An effort to get a gay marriage ban on the ballot in Illinois has hit a snag. ... So-called Lutherans in the eastern part of Canada move on gay marriage. (Isn’t this provision just a schism by another name?) ... Presbyterians in the United States are planning strategy on gay issues after their recent convention. ... In India parents wanting boys are aborting millions of female babies. ... The Roman Catholic church is drawing fire from scientists for planning to excommunicate stem-cell researchers. ... And, some can even find theological considerations in the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 07, 2006

Ps 33 / 2 Sa 16-18 / Tidbits

As you read Psalm 33 and these previous comments, also take note of verses 20-22, which particularly struck me as I read the psalm this time. Though often used alne with somewhat exchangeable meanings, in this psalm “waiting”, “hoping”, “rejoicing”, and “trusting” in the Lord, “our help and shield”, and “His holy Name” all come together. The faith of the people makes itself known in a sung confession others can hear and in a prayer to the Lord.

2 Samuel 16-18 continues the subsection narrating David losing his sons Amnon and Absalom, which is part of the larger section dealing with the weaknesses and failures of David’s reign. Today we hear of Ziba’s faithfulness to David (16:1-4), Shimei’s cursing David (16:5-13), the conflicting advice of Hushai and Ahithophel (16:15-17:29), and Absalom’s death (chapter 18). In reading chapter 16, commentators point out that Ziba was being an opportunist, breaking faith with his master Mephibosheth and lying about him in order to get possession of the lands Ziba was farming for Mephibosheth. If taken at face value, which David seems to do, the verses we read today do not bear out that claim, although what we will read tomorrow is the greater basis for the commentators’ statements. In contrast to what appears to be Ziba’s support of David, the account of Shimei shows how a person still faithful to Saul felt and acted. You may recall, that Zeruiah, David’s “sister”, had three sons: Asahel had pursued Abner and been killed by him, Joab stabbed Abner to avenge Asahel’s death, and Abishai shared the guilt for that murder (3:30). David had been unable to properly deal with his “nephews” then (3:39), and in 16:10 David also puts some distance between himself and their hot-headed, murderous ways. I was also struck by David’s confession that the Lord was acting through all of this (especially clear in 16:11)—we should be so quick to see His hand in “bad” things that happen to us. Hushai is directly responsible for Absalom fulfilling God’s prophecy through Nathan (12:11-12), and understand that Absalom’s lying with David’s concubines signifies his assuming his father’s royal power and is said to make his break with David “definitive and irreversible”. In chapter 17, Hushai advised waiting to get David and all those with him, in contrast to Ahithophel advising immediately going after David only. When the Lord made it so Hushai’s advice was followed, which was covertly reported to David, Ahithophel took his own life rather than be found guilty as a conspirator after the rebellion failed. Note that Absalom’s military commander Amasa (17:25) is another “nephew” of David and “cousin” to Absalom, Joab, and Abishai. Also notice in 17:27-29 how some old non-Israelite friends of David help him and those traveling with him. In chapter 18, David’s three “generals” go out to battle Absalom and his forces, while David follows the generals’ advice to stay in the city, commanding them to be “gentle” with Absalom. Nevertheless, after Absalom’s hair got caught up in a tree, Joab and his men killed him. There’s a little duplicity with the messengers who take the news to David, but the king eventually gets word Absalom died and begins to mourn him. More about that as we continue to read tomorrow. (I had to reflect on how ugly are the feet of those who bring bad news—see Isaiah 52:7 and Romans 10:15—and how pastors don’t have a choice as to what news they bring—see Ezekiel 33:1-20.)

Tidbits today incidentally include three sent in by readers! Georgia’s State Supreme Court reinstates a ban on gay marriage approved by voters. ... New York’s State Supreme Court leaves it to the state’s legislature to allow gay marriage. ... Nigerian Anglicans call the U.S. Episcopal church a “cancerous lump” on account of its positions on homosexuality. ... The National Education Association approved a resolution on same-sex marriage. ... Some so-called Lutherans in Canada are also dealing with homosexuality issues. ... Yesterday I linked the tidbit about the LCMS CTCR’s new opinion on gay adoption, and now I guess we’ll see if practice keeps up with the doctrine. ... There’s an international effort underway to get amnesty for unborn babies, challenging a well-known organization’s support for abortion. ... UPS is ordered to compensate a Seventh-day Adventist employee who wanted the Sabbath off. ... Jews for Jesus are working round the clock in New York City. ... And, Cowboy churches are thriving in Ohio, of all places.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 06, 2006

2 Sa 13-15 / Folos / Tidbits

(Remember to read Psalm 32; its previous Biblog post is here.)

As we continue to read of the weaknesses and failures of David’s reign, 2 Samuel 13-15 begins the narrative of David losing his sons Amnon, his firstborn son by Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Absalom, a son by Maacah of Geshur. The two losses are interrelated, as we see today, although we will not finish this subsection until Saturday. In reading chapter 13, which tells of Amnon raping Tamar and Absalom murdering Amnon, remember how Nathan had prophesied that there would be trouble in David’s family as a result of David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:10-12), and note well that there was a different Tamar earlier in David’s line and is another one later. Amnon was the crown prince, and Absalom was second in line (Kileab, the second born son, apparently died as a youth). Children of David and Maacah, Absalom and this Tamar were full brother and sister, making Amnon a half brother to Tamar (strictly speaking not a step-brother, I suppose, since they still had their own mothers). Also note that Amnon’s “friend” Jonadab is also his cousin, and, based on his advice to Amnon, another description for Jonadab, instead of “subtil” (KJV, ASV) or “shrewd” (NIV, NASB), might be “twisted”. Amnon’s rape of Tamar would have been offensive even if she were not his sister, but their relation makes it all the more offensive, as do the events that followed. David, although said to be furious (13:21), did nothing as father or king, perhaps feeling that he didn’t have the moral high ground after his own sins against the Fifth and Sixth Commandments. His own failure to act perhaps contributes to Absalom’s sin against the Fifth in response to Amnon’s sin against the Sixth. Note that Absalom fled to his maternal grandfather.

Chapter 14 tells how Absalom returned to Jerusalem. Joab involves himself in Absalom’s return by manipulating David through a made up story about two sons told to the king by a woman from Tekoa. The woman distorts God’s teaching (see, for example, Genesis 9:6), but nevertheless accomplishes Joab’s goal in getting Absalom back to Jerusalem, where Absalom and David eventually reconcile, even though there was no repentance over or justice for what happened with Amnon.

Chapter 15 tells how Absalom conspired to take the kingdom from his father. Perhaps learning from his own case with Amnon, Absalom capitalizes on what he at least perceived to be a weak spot in his father’s rule. Absalom takes into the conspiracy Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather, who was one of David’s most-trusted counselors, whose betrayal may have been motivated by David’s treatment of Bathsheba and Uriah and may have prompted some of the statements about betrayal that we have read in the Psalms. The king’s departure from Jerusalem and the various decisions made along the way will be important as we continue to read. For now, know that even as David is leaving to spare the city he is laying the groundwork for what will be his return, even though he recognizes that the Lord may not want him to continue as king.

Today’s first Biblog folo comes in response to Wednesday’s Biblog post where I suggested that in some sense David carried out for himself in the case of Bathsheba what God carried out for him Abigail. A reader emailed the following comment.

Abigail’s husband refused to assist David and his men, and was punished. Bathsheba’s husband was his loyal supporter and a leader in his army. (And David should have been in the field with them!) I find it hard to excuse David by equating the two this way.

I’m sorry if anyone misunderstood my comment; I certainly tried to couch it in such a way and made it parenthetical to suggest it was just a thought and not some definitive interpretation. To be sure, I was not trying to excuse David but trying to see things from his perspective. He got Abigail when the Lord struck down Nabal, and he got Bathsheba when he had Uriah struck down. Perhaps if David had not been permitted to get into the habit of taking as many wives as he wanted the more grievous sins would not have been committed. And, as for David’s obligation to be in the field, I do not think he went out with the soldiers every time they battled. Victories attributed to King David do not necessarily have to have been led by him personally.

The second Biblog folo regards the settlement of an Italian lawsuit, linked in Tuesday’s post, which lawsuit involved an atheist author suing a Roman Catholic priest, who had been a boyhood friend, for claiming without any proof that Jesus existed. A reader emailed, “Looks like another author suing to create free publicity for his book!” I’m inclined to agree, especially since this lawsuit made news around the same time that the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail were suing the author of The Da Vinci Code for copyright infringement.

Today’s third Biblog folo stems from a tidbit linked Wednesday regarding the beginning of a lawsuit in Ireland over frozen embryos. A reader emailed expressing interest in the outcome of this case and wondering about how many embryos are lost in the thawing process. I came across this page that suggests as many as 35% may not survive freezing. Such murder by freezing is another aspect of reproductive assistance we do not hear much about, unless it is from advocates of stem-cell research arguing in favor of gathering more cells than those they already have, in which case the percentage lost given is as high as 50%.

And speaking of stem-cell research, today’s tidbits begin with the U.S. Senate expected to vote on three stem-cell research bills. ... A woman in China reportedly fell to her death fleeing a forced abortion. ... Fewer American teenagers are having babies, according to a recent report. ... The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations says placing children in homosexual homes goes against the position of the Synod. ... Louisiana United Methodists refuse to call for repentance from certain sins before people can join the church. ... A decision from the New York State Supreme Court regarding gay marriage is “overdue”. ... And, one commentator says Superman is more of an anti-Christ.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 05, 2006

Ps 31 / 2 Sa 10-12 / A Lutheran blood type? / Tidbits

Psalm 31 is definitely worth reading again, and you can find some comments on this psalm here. Today I also want to draw your attention to the second part of verse 3. Holy writers frequently will use God’s honor and reputation as a basis for their prayers. In this case, God’s “name” is not just what others will think of Him as Creator of the world but, because His “name” has been put upon us in Holy Baptism, God’s “name” also is what others think of Him as Redeemer and Sanctifier. Moreover, God’s “name” stands for all that He is and does, and with His “name” put on us, we are included as His. In Holy Baptism He gives us His Name, and we also receive our own names, which He knows and calls us by to lead us and guide us (see John 10:3 and Psalm 23:2-3).

David’s reign was not completely positive, and 2 Samuel 10-12 begins the narrative of his reign’s weaknesses and failures. This first subsection tells of David committing adultery and murder. In chapter 10, understand that there probably was a treaty of some sort between the Ammonites and Israel, although the only other time Nahash is mentioned is in 1 Samuel 11 when he attacks Israel and is defeated by Saul. So, we don’t know what if any specific act of kindness Nahash had shown David, though some suspect Nahash had helped David flee from Saul at some point. (The Ammonites were Lot’s descendants and lived to the east of Israel’s lands.) Chapter 10 is linked to chapter 11 by the war with the Ammonites, with the events of chapter 11 perhaps taking place the spring after the events of chapter 10. David’s coveting and “sleeping with” Bathsheba and her subsequently becoming pregnant by him (as verse 4 makes clear) leads him to murder and lie—all sins against the commandments and abuses of his God-given authority as shepherd of the people. (Reading chapter 11 this time I was struck by how David in a sense carries out for himself what God in a sense carried out for him in the case of Abigail as told in 1 Samuel 25.) Chapter 12 tells how God confronted David with his sin through Nathan the prophet. Nathan tells a parable illustrating the sin and then directly accuses David (12:7). David repents, and Nathan absolves him (12:13). There were still consequences, however, such as the death of the child, on account of what the sin did to God’s reputation among the nations (12:14). Even in his grief of a parent who has lost a child, David’s words in 12:23 are, I think, a strong statement of faith in everlasting life, not just joining the child in the grave. The sort of confession and individual absolution between David and Nathan is also available to each one of us, where we use parts of Psalm 51, which is thought to have originated in connection with the events of 2 Samuel 12.

Is there really a Lutheran blood type? Some five months ago a reader sent me via email this link to some information about a system of classifying blood called “Lutheran”, different from the regular system of A+, O-, etc. The reader also provided the following explanation from the web.

The Lutheran blood group was initially described in 1945 when the first example of anti-Lua was discovered in the serum of a patient following transfusion of a unit of blood carrying the corresponding low frequency antigen. The new antibody was named Lutheran, a misinterpretation of the patient's name, Luteran. In 1956, Cutbush and Chanarin described anti-Lub, which defined the high frequency antithetical partner. The Lutheran blood group system, now consists of 18 antigens, including four allelic pairs: Lua (Lu1) and Lub (Lu2); Lu6 and Lu9; Lu8 and Lu14; Aua (Lu18) and Aub (Lu19).

The information is pretty technical, and, while it looked authentic enough, I wanted to be sure it was true. In part because of my own regular blood donation, I have some friends in high places at blood banks, and one of them did a little digging for me and just Monday reported finding out that, indeed, there is an antigen called “Lutheran” as a result of a misspelling of the patient’s name, though my friend gave the original name as “Lutteran”. Thus, it would appear we all have blood that can be classified by this “Lutheran” system. Of course, those of us who are washed clean of our sins by Christ’s blood and who receive that same blood in the Sacrament of the Altar are “Lutheran” in a whole different sense. Still, I remind you that summer months are usually times when blood is desperately needed, in part due to regular donors taking vacations, and so I encourage you to donate if you are eligible. (Incidentally, Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Warda is having a blood drive Thursday, July 6; you can call the church office at 979-242-3333 to schedule an appointment.)

Tidbits today begin with an Irish lawsuit that could give frozen embryos the right to life underway in Dublin. ... Two more Episcopal dioceses are distancing themselves from the U.S. administration over ordaining gays and blessing same-sex unions. ... The elevation of a woman to the head of the U.S. Episcopal church is attracting new attention to how high women can go in churches, but this accompanying chart is wrong about the LCMS (at least as far as I know). ... Hip-hop is reportedly being used to promote sexual abstinence. ... And Rolling Stone Keith Richards is said to play on a Lutheran CD, if you believe the ELCA is Lutheran.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 04, 2006

2 Sa 7-9 / Tidbits

(Don’t forget to read Psalm 30 today and to see these earlier comments.)

Today 2 Samuel 7-9 finishes the major section dealing with the accomplishments and glory of David’s kingdom, as we read of God promising David an everlasting dynasty (chapter 7), of the extension of David’s kingdom (chapter 8), and of David’s faithfulness to his personal covenant with Jonathan (chapter 9). In chapter 7, David’s desire to build a temple or house for the Lord is the occasion of the Lord promising to establish a house or dynasty for David, indicating also that David’s son, who is unnamed at this point but will be Solomon, would build the temple. Notice also in chapter 7 how the Lord uses the shepherding figure of speech for the leading of Israel and how the Lord prophesies of Solomon’s unfaithfulness and punishment. In chapter 8 I wondered at David’s putting to death of the Moabites, who not only were ancestors of his but also had given his parents refuge during David’s exile from Israel (1 Samuel 22:3-4). In this context he seems to have treated the Moabites harsher than the other groups around Israel. One commentator suggests that later the Moabites must have done something against Israel that David would inflict a more severe punishment upon them, and the commentator suggests that the punishment would only have been inflicted on the men fighting for the Moabites who were captured, pointing to the “rest” of the Moabites who became David’s subjects. In chapter 9 David fulfills his promise made to Jonathan in such places as 1 Samuel 20:15, 42. We will hear more about Mephibosheth in a few days, as our reading about David’s reign describes some of its darker days.

Tidbits today begin with Nigeria’s Anglican bishop saying a plan for two tiers of membership in their world-wide communion dulls what should be a call to repentance. ... More than half of the nation’s top 500 companies reportedly give domestic partner benefits. ... The pope yesterday called for safeguarding traditional families. ... There’s been a ruling in an atheist author’s suit against a priest that claimed Jesus didin’t exist. ... Darwin’s theories are said to be infiltrating moral thought. ... Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy issued a stay, saving for the moment the 29-foot cross that’s part of a San Diego war memorial. ... And this 4th of July there’s a call to support our troops.

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 03, 2006

Ps 29 / 2 Sa 4-6

Psalm 29 is appointed again today, and, while you can find my comments from the last time here, I also wanted to make another comment, this one pertaining more specifically to verse 2. The Hebrew phrase used in the second half of the verse is difficult, and translators usually either take it to describe God as holy or to describe how worshipers are to approach God. As an example of the first, the New International Version translates, “worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness” (the KJV is a little more ambiguous). As an example of the second, the New American Standard Bible translates, “Worship the Lord in holy array” (so, too, the ASV). Both of the more modern translations give the alternate reading in their text notes. In either case, however, those addressed seem to be the heavenly worshipers and not those of us here on earth (see the address in verse 1). Nevertheless, people today frequently want to experience the glory of heaven and think that they can worship God in His majesty. In fact, we sinners by nature cannot even enter into His holy presence, let alone stay there and worship Him. We need to draw near to confess our sins and be forgiven so that we can enter into His presence and worship Him there. Yet, in this life even forgiven we do not approach the Almighty and Glorious God, but we come to a baby in a rude manger or a beaten man hanging on a rough-hewn cross. In this life there are hints of glorious worship, but we find the Presence of our Lord contradictorily hidden in simple water, words of life, the mouth of a sinful man, and in bread and wine. Thereby clothed now in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness, we know we will one day answer the call to glorious heavenly worship in that holy array.

2 Samuel 4-6 today finishes the major section dealing with David’s rise to the throne by finishing the subsection that tells of David becoming king over Judah (chapter 4), covering the whole subsection that tells of David becoming king over all Israel (5:1-5). Then, today’s reading takes us into the next major section dealing with the accomplishments and glory of David’s kingship by completing the subsection telling of David conquering Jerusalem and defeating the Philistines (5:6-25) and the subsection telling of David bringing the ark to Jerusalem (chapter 6). Chapter 4 basically indicates that there was no one else to claim the throne, and again we see David carry out justice to someone trying to win his favor by doing evil. Chapter 5 gives us an indication how long the civil war had been going on between the tribes of Israel after the death of Saul before the kingdom was united under David and Jerusalem was made its capital. As noted elsewhere, David’s taking Jerusalem and making it his capital symbolized the restored unity between the tribes. After we read of the victories the Lord gave David over the Philistines, we hear of David’s bringing the ark to Jerusalem. Instead of following the instructions of the Lord recorded by Moses (Exodus 25:12-14; Numbers 4:5-6, 15), David in 6:1-8 followed the example of the Philistines who had returned the ark to Israel (1 Samuel 6:7). The death of Ussah that came in the process must have made David pay more attention, as the next time they moved the ark they did it right (6:9-15). David’s “wife” Michal thought David acted in a matter ill-fitting his position as king, but her pride was reduced by David’s reply, and we are told of her punishment and another sign of God’s judgment on Saul and his descendants (6:23).

God bless your day!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 02, 2006

Ps 28 / 2 Sa 1-3 / “The Nativity Story”

As I read Psalm 28 again today, I wanted to know more than my previous comments said about “the pit” (verse 1). The “pit” is often linked with “the depths” and “the grave”, along with the person’s “silence” (not to be confused with God’s silence in this psalm), “darkness”, “destruction” or “corruption”, “dust”, “mire”, “slime”, and “mud”. In the context of this psalm, we notice that the psalmist fears being “like those who have gone down to the pit”, that is, going down to the pit himself, which he says will come about if the Lord does not hear (is deaf to) or answer (remains silent in response to) the psalmist’s cries. Literally, a pit was often cut out of rock and sometimes plastered over as a place to collect water during the dry season for use in the rainy. The steep smooth-sided pits or cisterns sometimes served as prisons (remember how Joseph’s brothers used it in Genesis 37:20-29), and sometimes even as a place to dump corpses (Jeremiah 41:7, 9). So, there’s little surprise that figuratively speaking, being cast alive into “the pit” can refer to experiencing great danger but allow that the person can still cry to the Lord and be delivered. On the other hand, going into the pit dead can be more final in the sense that death is thought to be final. Of course, if Christ does not return first our bodies will be cast into the pit of the grave at least figuratively, if not also literally. Yet, the pit is not final, for believers in Christ have the sure promise of deliverance from the pit, the resurrection of the body, and everlasting life of body and soul together with Christ.

With today’s reading of 2 Samuel 1-3 we begin the next book in our Old Testament canon, and you can find some good comments overviewing the book in the background for this month’s reading (online here or as a PDF here). The narrative picks up right where 1 Samuel left off, continuing the section dealing with the end of Saul’s reign and the beginning of David’s by today giving us most of the section telling of David becoming king of Judah. Chapter 1 tells of David hearing of Saul’s death (1:1-16) and lamenting Saul and Jonathan (1:17-27). Chapter 2 and 3 tell of David anointed king over Judah (2:1-7), of the war between David and Saul’s house (2:8-3:5), and of Abner’s going to war with David (3:6-21) and being murdered by Joab (3:22-39). David has the Amalekite who brings him news of Saul’s and Jonathan’s deaths killed because he claims to have killed Saul, apparently thinking that David will reward him for killing an adversary. David’s lament, with the repeated theme “How the mighty have fallen”, recalls the good things about Saul and Jonathan, especially Jonathan’s covenant commitment to David at Jonathan’s own expense. David’s tribe of Judah and possibly also Simeon anoint David king in keeping with the Lord’s command, while Abner, to serve his own interests (see, for example, 3:1-11), has Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s son, anointed king over his tribe of Benjamin and a few others, though “all Israel” is a claim and not reality (see, for example, 3:17). The two kingdoms were in conflict that produced bloodshed, with David’s nephew Asahel among the casualties. When Abner is caught usurping Ish-Bosheth’s authority, Abner decides to help David secure the whole kingdom, and for having killed Asahel Abner is ultimately killed by Joab, who somewhat escapes justice but earns David’s curse upon the house of Zeruiah, David’s sister and mother of Asahel, Joab, and Abishai.

Friday night I saw a trailer for “The Nativity Story”, a new movie about Jesus’ birth that will be out in time for Christmas. You can read about the release of the trailer here, find the movie’s website here, and read more about the movie and about some animal trouble they had filming the picture here. Yes, “The Nativity Story” appears to be capitalizing on Mel Gibson’s “Passion”, but I won’t hold my breath for that degree of accuracy, since the screenwriter said he was inspired by Time and Newsweek, not the Bible, and tried to concentrate on the characters of Mary and Joseph, not on the Nativity’s events themselves.

God bless your day, and may you let Him make it holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:00 AM

July 01, 2006

Dt 32:1-4 / 1 Sa 28-31 / Folos / Tidbits

The seasonal canticle for July is Deuteronomy 32:1-4, the first part of the song Moses sang at the conclusion of his final sermon to the people of Israel. There is about that much of a comment in the background reading for this month (online here and in downloadable PDF here), there are some comments about the song as a whole and its surrounding context from when we read the verses as part of the reading in March, and I want to add a few additional comments. As in verse 1, heaven and earth are frequently called on to be witnesses to things spoken. Verse 2 tells how the rain and dew of God’s teaching and words are intended to bring about good in those who receive them (see also Isaiah 55:10-11), and verse 3 indicates the proclamation should also bring forth our praise. God is solid and unchanging, we hear in verse 4, and everything He does for us or allows to happen to us is righteous—most especially the righteousness He gives us by faith in Jesus Christ.

Although today as we read 1 Samuel 28-31 we finish 1 Samuel, in the overall scheme of what was originally one book, the reading merely finishes the subsection that tells of David seeking refuge in Philistia and of Saul and his sons being killed in battle, which subsection itself is part of the larger section dealing with the end of Saul’s reign and the beginning of David’s. Chapter 28 tells of Saul and the witch of Endor, chapter 29 of Achish sending David back to Ziklag, chapter 30 of David destroying the Amalekites, and chapter 31 of the end of Saul’s life. The repetition in 28:3 of Samuel being dead (see 25:1) helps explain why Saul sought a witch in order to consult Samuel, even though in keeping with the Covenant commands he had expelled all mediums and spiritists from the land. (This story, by the way, is a Bible narrative often used to illustrate breaking the commandment against misusing God’s Name by “seeking the aid of people who practice [conjuring, fortunetelling, and consulting the dead] and similar satanic arts.”) Whether the Lord in 28:12 and verses following permitted the spirit of Samuel to appear or whether the witch actually “brought up” an evil spirit that appeared as Samuel is often debated, but what really matters is that, whichever it was, God thereby reminded Saul of Samuel’s previous words and told him of their imminent fulfillment. We should take 28:19’s “with me” in the sense of “dead”, not necessarily in the sense of “in heaven”. David’s comments to Achish in 29:8 (as well as 28:2) are perhaps intentionally ambiguous, but the Philistine commanders are the ones who effectively relieve David of having to betray loyalties to Achish or to Saul. Instead, David retrieves what was stolen from him in Ziklag and others in Judah, making statements to his own men and the elders of Judah with the distribution of his plunder. (No word on what Achish thought of the distribution!) The Philistines, meanwhile, defeated Saul and the Israelites, killing, among others, Jonathan, and critically wounding Saul. To prevent abuse, Saul fell at his own hand, and his body, after some mistreatment, was recovered, burned to prevent further abuse, and then buried, at first in Jabesh and later in Zela’s burial grounds in Benjamin. Much as with Judas and Peter, the Lutheran Confessions (specifically Apology XII:8, 36; and to some extent Large Catechism I:370) contrast Saul and David in terms of repentance and faith. While Judas and Saul both committed suicide, it is not that sin against the Fifth Commandment that damns both Judas and Saul but their lack of faith, as opposed to Peter and David who were likewise sinners but who were not only sorry for their sin but also believed unto forgiveness. (We especially will need to remember this confessionally-binding understanding of Saul’s end tomorrow as we read 2 Samuel 1:23.)

I have three Biblog folos today. First, in response to this Q&A on 1 Samuel 16:14, a reader asked further, “Should one equate original sin with occupation by an evil spirit?” I think we must say “No”, for while the exorcism at Baptism ritually signifies that before conversion everyone is—or at least could be—occupied by an evil spirit, we would expect that such exorcism(s) in the Baptismal rite would be successful in driving out any evil spirit. Original sin, however, remains to some extent in the old creature of even those who are Baptized and converted. Exorcisms are sometimes still performed on believers today, although we would not normally think that every believer needs one—the way we would have to think every believer needed one if the original sin remaining in every believer were still occupation by an evil spirit. (You might see further this previously posted Q&A on Mark 6:7.)

Second, in response to tidbits linked June 27 and June 30 about Christian music at a skating rink, a reader emailed the following comment about how times change.

Our [American Lutheran Church] Luther Leagues (three or four together) rented the roller skating rink for private parties, as did any other group that wanted to get one together. I don’t remember that there was such a thing as “Christian Contemporary Music,” though. Luther League is probably as dead as [the Missouri Synod’s] Walther League now.

Walther League was already dead when I grew up and was in what we called “Youth Group”, although we certainly had the opportunity to rent out skating rinks, and I suppose we even could have played whatever music we wanted (I think “Christian Contemporary Music” might have been beginning then). Can you imagine a state agency filing suit on behalf of someone who is put off by Rock and Roll music being played during a so-designated skating time?

Third, in response to yesterday’s tidbit about cartoons being a measure of freedom, a reader emailed the following comment, with what seems to be an allusion to the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding military tribunals.

Cartoons can be a measure of freedom. Certainly repressive regimes are sensitive to them. (Ours is, too.) Other “measures” are a trial before conviction, and prosecuting criminals, not the whole group they happen to be members of. It’s been a long time since ranks of troops in uniform lined up and walked toward other ranks of troops in uniform, a la Civil War days, or Waterloo. Now, the enemy may be wearing your uniform, or the uniform of the police forces theoretically on “your side”, or no uniform at all. Wars are planned by old men in safety; young men get killed.

Today lines of both the cartoon and military variety are certainly drawn in different places and ways than they used to be. I don’t know that the U.S. government goes after editorial cartoonists, however. And, on this Independence Day weekend, I am thankful for the young men and women who have been killed and who risk death to keep us safe and preserve our freedoms.

I want to say a couple of things about Tidbits before I give you today's. My original purpose in including them was to share some thought provoking and sometimes entertaining items from the internet. The ones specifically about other church bodies are never presented as if ours is better than another--on the contrary, especially of late the items have shown how some striving to be faithful are leaving their own more-liberal church bodies. I know items overall tend more towards "signs of the times" and thus in a way can be depressing, but I pray the items never lead you to despair, for we know Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33). To be sure, there are positive stories out there, but I don't want to seek them out simply for the sake of having "positive" tidbits, just as I a number of years ago resisted adding so-called "good news" stories to my newcasts just for the sake of having "good news". As I used to--and sometimes still do--say, airplanes landing safely at the airport aren't really news. (As always, I welcome your comments on this matter.)

Now, for today's tidbits themselves. That Tennessee pastor’s wife accused of killing her husband reportedly was kiting checks and says her husband's criticism made her crack. ... Arkansas’ governor and supreme court are battling over gay foster parents. ... A Jesus picture hanging in a West Virginia high school prompts a lawsuit. ... A judge clears the way for students to sue the University of California for not recognizing some religious courses in its admission process. ... President Bush has been asked to save a giant cross that’s part of a San Diego war memorial. ... A California senate committee rejects physician-assisted suicide. ... The pope has made 27 new archbishops, slammed gay marriage, and said “something” about church music. ... Three U.S. Episcopal dioceses are seeking to be placed under a more-conservative foreign leader. ... Speaking of church leaders, I commend to you a Memorial Moment from this past week dealing with the Truth and church leaders. ... And, talk about tarnishing an icon north of the border!

By the way, I saw "Superman Returns" last night, and, unless someone wants me to say more, I will simply direct you to the "From our Pastors" article in the July issue of Grace to You. There are two new Q&A on June's readings starting with this one. God bless your day, and may you let Him make tomorrow holy by using His Word and Sacraments!

Posted by Pastor Galler at 12:08 AM